MIAMI – The family of a missing cruise ship passenger said Monday that they suspect the woman "chose an unfortunate ending to her life" and jumped from a cruise ship balcony into the waters off Mexico's coast on Christmas night. The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search Monday for Jennifer Ellis Seitz, a Florida journalist, after combing more than 4,200 square miles off the coast of the popular resort area of Cancun, where the ship had just visited. Mexican authorities said they would continue their search for another 48 hours.
Seitz had "previous emotional issues," yet there were no outward signs of distress while on the seven-night cruise from Miami, her family said in a statement given to one of her former employers, The News Chief in Winter Haven. Seitz's mother joined her daughter and son-in-law on the cruise.
"Jennifer was in a very happy and uplifted mood both before and during the cruise," the Ellis family said in the statement. "She was excited about starting a new job and her future career with a local newspaper. She and her husband had been talking about starting their family. The family suspects that Jennifer chose an unfortunate ending to her life. She was a beautiful and caring person and will be truly missed by all who love her."
Seitz and her husband, Raymond, were celebrating their one-year anniversary on the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship.
A surveillance camera showed someone falling overboard at 8 p.m. Christmas night, authorities said. About eight hours later, Raymond Seitz reported his wife missing.
FBI spokesman Mike Leverock says agents met the ship at the dock in Miami on Sunday, collected materials and "are still trying to determine if a crime occurred."
Norwegian Cruise Line said it is "cooperating fully" with the FBI.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the guest during this difficult time," the company said in a news release.
Raymond Seitz has not been charged with any crime, authorities said Monday.
The couple met in a weight loss support group; both had undergone bariatric surgery. She chronicled her weight loss journey for an Orlando TV station.
She was also a freelance writer, having written articles for The Tampa Tribune, The Ledger in Lakeland, and an online article titled, "Battling the Bulge Onboard," about how not to gain weight while aboard a ship.
On her Web site, Seitz described herself as an "avid traveler and an amateur chef." She was previously a reporter for Florida Today, a newspaper in Melbourne.
Raymond Seitz was arrested in April on a charge of domestic violence-battery after being accused of head-butting his wife. The charge was dropped after he entered a pretrial diversion program. Records show that she asked the prosecutor not to pursue the case.
A fellow passenger on the ship, Jim Nestor, told NBC's Today show that Seitz and her new husband stood out on the ship with "large and raw personalities."
Many of the passengers saw them as contestants on an on-board game called "The Not-So-Newlywed Game," modeled after a 1960s TV quiz show. The game was also carried on the ship's closed-circuit TV channel.
"They stood out a lot more than other people," Nestor, a retired police officer, told NBC.
Nestor, who appeared on the game show with his own wife, said he ran into Raymond Seitz day after his wife was reported missing.
"I had given him my condolences, and he had a plastic bag filled with quarters, and he said to me that he was going to the casino to see if he could change his luck," Nestor said.