Community, family gather to mourn Kissimmee barber found dead in submerged vehicle

Troopers say Malavez failed to negotiate a turn driving along Waters Edge drive in Buena Ventura Lakes

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – A community is surrounding a family after a well-known barber was found dead after a vehicle crash last week.

A large portion of the Kissimmee community is surrounding Jose Malavez-LeBron’s family with love.

Sunday, you could see dozens of flowers and candles on display showing support for the barber who family members say was taken away too soon.

“She tells us he is supposed to be back home like 3 o’clock in the morning and he never returned, so we already knew something wasn’t right,” Anthony Castaneda said.

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Castaneda says moments after that call with Sophia Ramirez, Malavez’s fiancé, he and family members rushed to the Kissimmee area from Eastman, Georgia.

He says they wanted to make sure his son, 36-year-old Jose Malavez-Lebron, was found after being reported missing this past Monday.

Castaneda said, “We had filed a missing person’s report which was weird because we did it in Osceola County, not knowing that the incident was in Orange County.”

Florida Highway Patrol says Malavez was found in his vehicle submerged days later on the following Friday.

Troopers say Malavez failed to negotiate a turn driving along Waters Edge Drive in Buena Ventura Lakes.

On Sunday, crowds were seen all around Barberos, which is the barbershop Malavez worked at on Osceola Parkway, where family says he impacted the community.

“She feels him here in this environment,” said a translator for Sophia Ramirez.

Sitting in the same shop she met him at, she says she is staying strong at this time as the couple was getting ready to welcome their first child together.

“She never thought he was going to be missing while the baby was going to be born,” Ramirez said.

For Castaneda, he said, “This might be surprising to all of you, I am not his biological father. He was my child since he was 3 months old”

He says the family is happy there was no foul play, but says the incident surrounding Malavez’s death is unfortunately familiar.

“His biological father perished in circumstances similar, my wife had identified him in a lake,” Castaneda said.

Castaneda says going forward they’re going to be holding on to their faith as they heal.

“We know there is a purpose for everything .The bible states that today is today and we don’t know what could happen tomorrow,” Castaneda said.

The family has provided a GoFundMe link as they look to get results for Malavez’s family to offset burial expenses as well as support the birth of a Malavez’s daughter.

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About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.