He and his fiancée "were both ecstatic and anxiously awaiting their baby girl," and "had exciting plans on celebrating," the fundraiser reads.
After failing to come home and being missing for 5 days, a Florida barbershop owner and soon-to-be father was discovered dead last week. The Orange County Sheriff's Office (OCSO) released a statement confirming that Jose Rafael Malavez Lebron was discovered deceased inside his submerged vehicle inside a retention pond on May 19.
Family members had voiced “concern for Jose's well-being due to his lack of contact” with them. The 36-year-old was last seen at 3 a.m. local time on May 15 close to Ward Road and Bishop Landing Way. Jose was driving around a corner when he lost control of his vehicle, slammed into a utility box, and veered into the water, according to a news release acquired by PEOPLE from the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP).
Heartbreaking story out of Orange County. The body of a popular barber was found submerged in his car in a pond. The Florida Highway Patrol says Jose Malavez lost control going around a curve. His girlfriend is expecting their first child. @fox35orlando https://t.co/uFpgEQrDBO— Amy Kaufeldt FOX 35 (@Fox35Amy) May 22, 2023
Jose was expecting his first child, a baby girl named Gia, with his fiancée Sofia Ramirez, who is due in August, according to a GoFundMe page launched to assist his family. "They were both ecstatic and anxiously awaiting their baby girl" and "had exciting plans on celebrating," read a message on the fundraising page. "After five long days full of agony we were given the horrific news that Malavez was in a tragic auto accident which ended his life," the fundraising message read. "He leaves behind a broken family," which now needs funds to support them, per the campaign.
Ramirez never thought he was going to be missing while the baby was going to be born. The expectant father, who was a well-known local barber before he passed away, met his partner in the barbershop he ran, per WKMG-TV. “She feels him here in this environment,” said a translator for Ramirez.
Ramirez told WESH that she had no idea that the father of her child would experience such a thing. "Until the last minute, she always hoped that he was going to come back alive. To come back with his family," Ramirez's sister said. "She never thought he was gonna be missing while the baby was gonna be born. Now she needs to look up to be strong for the baby," she added.
On May 19, 2023, Orange County deputies responded to Waters Edge Drive and Lost Creek Court to assist the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office with a submerged vehicle inside of a retention pond. Tragically, Jose Rafael Malave Lebron was found deceased inside of the vehicle. Jose… https://t.co/zF7GCVPrzK— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) May 19, 2023
Anthony Castaneda had raised Jose "since he was 3 months old" after his biological father passed away in "similar" circumstances. As the community gathered to honor Jose at his barbershop, Castaneda said, “His biological father perished in circumstances similar, my wife had identified him in a lake," adding, "He was a strong kid, a good kid. He was a good kid." He added, "It's hard to be in a house of pain and sorrow."
"But there's a reason for all of this. It's telling us life is precious. You could lose everything in a second. We're going to learn from this. Definitely, we all are."
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe