Tech CEO Pava LaPere's killing has spurred an effort from lawmakers to curb early-release credits for violent sex offenders

Tech CEO Pava LaPere's killing has spurred an effort from lawmakers to curb early-release credits for violent sex offenders
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  • Pava LaPere, 26, the founder and CEO of EcoMap Technologies, was found dead in 2023.

  • Legislators this week introduced a bill to stop violent sex offenders from accruing early-release credits.

  • Her father, Frank LaPere, told Business Insider it was time to change the justice system.

Following the brutal September death of 26-year-old Pava LaPere, a Baltimore tech executive, Maryland lawmakers this week introduced legislation to prohibit people convicted of first-degree sexual offenses from earning early-release credits.

Authorities identified the suspect as Jason Dean Billingsley, 32, who was released in October 2022 after serving nine years of a reduced 30-year sentence for charges including first-degree sexual offense. He earned diminution credits for good conduct and participating in education and special projects, further reducing his sentence, though the state denied him parole twice. He's been charged with murder in LaPere's death.

In Maryland, most people in prison are eligible to receive diminution credits, though some who've been convicted of certain sex offenses involving victims under 16 are ineligible. The bill would expand ineligibility to people with any first-degree sex offense.

At a press conference in Baltimore on Tuesday, Ivan Bates, the state's attorney for Baltimore City, said the new bill was "first and foremost about public safety."

"If we cannot keep the public safe from the most egregious violent offenders in our society, then we have failed as public servants," Bates said. "There can be no disagreement after seeing the tragedy that unfolded here in our city on September 22, 2023. This legislation is urgent and is vital to the state of Maryland."

The public defender's office, which is representing Billingsley, did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

The bill, called the Pava Marie LaPere Act, would require the Maryland Parole Commission to approve an early release.

"It's about discretion," said Del. Elizabeth Embry, a sponsor of the bill who previously worked in the Maryland attorney general's office. "It means that a person who has committed the most serious acts of sexual violence in our system — first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense — can only be released if the parole commission agrees.

Embry added: "Unlike the diminution-credit process, the parole commission can hear from victims. The parole commission can hear from victim's families, from people who cared about the victim of the crime. The parole commission can consider the entirety of the person's record and history of violence. So what this bill says is if you're going to be released early, if you've committed these horrific acts, it cannot just be through the math of diminution credits. It means the parole commission has to approve it."

Billingsley spent nine years and three months in prison for first-degree assault involving threat and force. Authorities said he held a woman at knifepoint while forcing her to perform oral sex.

Pava LaPere.
Pava LaPere.EcoMap Technologies

The Maryland Division of Parole and Probation told Business Insider that after nearly one year of mandatory supervision, Billingsley missed a treatment session on September 19. The same day, authorities identified Billingsley as the prime suspect in a case involving a couple who were set on fire in a West Baltimore rooming house and left to die. He was charged with rape and attempted murder.

The Baltimore City Police Department said it didn't inform the public about Billingsley as it tried to capture him. Authorities said that three days later LaPere, the CEO of EcoMap Technologies, was killed after letting Billingsley into her apartment building, less than a mile from the rooming house, under the ruse that he'd forgotten his keys.

Bates said the bill's narrow focus on sexual offenses was due to LaPere's father, Frank LaPere.

"I have a 7-year-old daughter," Bates said. "I'll never forget talking to him, seeing him well up. I thought about me being a father how it would feel. This one's a little different. It's a little more personal in that regard."

The lawmakers at the press conference said they didn't know how many sex offenders in Maryland prisons would be affected if the bill became law, but Embry said about 10 to 15 people a year in the state are convicted of the two highest levels of sex offenses. She also described sexual assault as "underreported and underprosecuted."

Frank LaPere joined lawmakers announcing the bill.

"Pava's death is the reason this is happening," LaPere said in an interview with Business Insider. "State's Attorney Bates and his crew initiated a conversation with us about six weeks ago, but they already had the bill rolling."

During the press conference, he fought back tears as he spoke about his only daughter. Describing Baltimore as a victim that was "held hostage," he called on Mayor Brandon Scott and Gov. Wes Moore to act.

"Mayor Scott, you stated emphatically on September 26 that there is no way in hell that he should have been on the street," he said of Billingsley, adding: "Gov. Moore has stated emphatically on multiple occasions that the system failed Pava. It's time to change that system."

LaPere said that "in some cases, diminution credits are just not working."

Billingsley is being held without bail and is due back in court on March 4.

Correction: January 17, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misrepresented the charges in LaPere's case. The suspect has been charged with murder, but he has not been charged with rape in the case.

Read the original article on Business Insider