updated 7/16/2009 7:28:36 PM ET 2009-07-16T23:28:36

A Los Angeles man has been arrested for allegedly murdering his wife during a cruise to Mexico, the FBI said Thursday.

Robert McGill was being held in the death of his wife, Shirley, aboard the Carnival Elation. She was killed during a five-day trip to Cabo San Lucas, said Keith Slotter, special agent in charge of the FBI's San Diego bureau.

Slotter would not provide details of the killing or a possible motive.

"We have suspicions at this time of how it was conducted but until that autopsy is done I can't comment ... on exactly how it may have occurred," he said.

Carnival Cruise Lines issued a statement saying the Elation was on the last leg of its trip on Tuesday evening when the 55-year-old woman was killed during a domestic dispute in a cabin.

A passenger contacted ship's security several hours after the ship had left Cabo San Lucas on Tuesday and expressed concern that the wife might be dead, Slotter said.

Crew members went to the cabin and found her body but McGill was not there, Slotter said.

The suspect, in his mid-50s, was later taken into custody and held in the brig.

Passengers aboard Elation said they never got official word, but rumors flew after a guard was posted outside the couple's cabin.

The FBI sent 20 agents by U.S. Coast Guard cutter to the ship Wednesday night. They interviewed some 50 witnesses as well as the suspect, Slotter said.

The ship docked at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, and the San Diego County medical examiner removed the woman's body about three hours later, said John Gilmore, a spokesman for the Port of San Diego.

McGill was taken off the 2,052-passenger ship hours after it returned to its homeport. McGill, who has long hair past his shoulders and wore dark glasses, sat in the back of a sport utility vehicle as he was driven away from the dock.

Shortly afterward, FBI agents walked off the ship carrying plastic baggies and a white plastic foam box labeled, "urgent refrigerated evidence enclosed."

On Thursday morning, the cruise ship sat at port just a few blocks from downtown San Diego as security personnel and news reporters swarmed the dock. The crowd startled passengers who were lugging suitcases from the terminal building as they prepared to board the Elation, which was scheduled for an afternoon departure on another trip to Cabo.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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