An American man has been arrested in connection with the death of his girlfriend in a Mexican resort town, the country's federal police said Sunday. 

The suspect was identified by Mexican authorities as 59-year-old John Loveless. His hometown was not given. A police statement said Loveless was detained at the Cancun airport before he was to board a flight to Atlanta.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City confirmed the death in Playa del Carmen of an American citizen it identified as Tamra Turpin, but also would not give her hometown. It offered condolences and said it was providing consular assistance in the case. The embassy also said it was aware of reports that a U.S. citizen had been detained, but referred further questions to Mexican authorities.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday that Turpin was from Union, Mo., a town about 50 miles southwest of St. Louis. She was 36 years old. 

Turpin was found dead Wednesday in a condo the couple had rented, and a forensic examination concluded she died of asphyxia by strangulation.

Turpin's cousin and sister told the Post-Dispatch that she had known Loveless for about a year, and the two had taken other trips together. The woman's relatives said Loveless had told them Turpin had been taken to a hospital the day she died after suffering seizures. He claimed she was released, but "still wasn't right", then died at the hotel later Wednesday morning. 

"We were in shock," said Turpin's cousin, Julie Burr. "I never expected anything like this."

Turpin's sister, Jodie Mills, said Turpin had suffered a disability after being in a car accident during her teens. The injury, which was not specified, prevented her from working. 

"She was a wonderful, sweet girl," Mills told the Post-Dispatch. 

The family has set up a gofundme account in an effort to raise the $8,000 needed to bring Turpin's body back from Mexico. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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