But now, reports CBS News Correspondent Ben Tracy, 42-year-old Monica Beresford-Redman is a murder victim and her husband is being questioned as the chief suspect.
Bruce Beresford-Redman, 38, a former producer of "Survivor" and "Pimp My Ride," is now involved in a real-life reality show - and may be subjected to tough conditions behind bars in Mexico, according to CBS News legal analyst Lisa Bloom.
Monica's body, authorities say, was found in a sewer at the upscale hotel Moon Palace, where the couple and their two children had been staying. A newly-released coroner's report says she died from a blow to the skull.
Investigators say his statements are full of contradictions. One told CBS News, "he said he last saw here 10 a.m. Monday morning. But they were seen together arguing, even arguing with each other at dinner Monday night."
The coroner says she was killed around midnight Monday.
Further complicating the case -- police say Bruce took his two kids from Mexico home to Los Angeles, but then flew back to Mexico before reporting his wife missing.
He was released from detention late Thursday night but, says Tracy, is still under investigation and is forbidden from leaving Mexico. Armed guards are surrounding Monica's body at the morgue.
Bloom points out that Bruce has "been detained and released, and they can do that in Mexico for up to 48 hours at a time. If he is arrested, he has the right to be charged within 72 hours in front of a judge and, in some ways, Mexico does give the same rights as U.S. Courts.
"He has the right to an attorney of his choosing, he has the right to remain silent. He has sort-of speedy trial rights -- the right to have this case brought in front of a judge for trial within about one year.
"But," Bloom told "Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez Friday, "Amnesty International issued a blistering report about the Mexican criminal justice system just a couple of years ago. It is notoriously corrupt. The jails they say are unsanitary, violent and overcrowded. You certainly do not want to be arrested in Mexico. That's for sure."
Are Mexican authorities likely to handle this especially carefully because it's getting so much attention in this country?
"Absolutely," Bloom responded. "I think the glare of the media has to help him, some of the practices that we hear about in Mexico, I think, are less likely if there is attention brought to this case.
"But bottom line -- is that he is in another country. It is their criminal justice system that will govern this case, not ours. The FBI can step in if Mexico authorities ask them to, but they don't have the right to step in. Their laws are going to govern. If he is ultimately arrested and convicted and sentenced, he would have the right to be brought back to a U.S. prison to serve his sentence, and there's no death penalty in Mexico if he's charged with a homicide. That would be one advantage for him. And sentences are typically shorter there than they are here."
Monica and Bruce were both praised -- even lauded -- by acquaintances.
Marcelo Gomez, a Brazilian journalist who knew her for 17 years, told Rodriguez he "only has good htings to say" about Monica. ""It's a major blow for our community," Gomez said. "She is an definitely an icon to the Brazilian community in Los Angeles. Everybody knows her."
Gomez says the "just thought she would show up with a bad headache and it was nothing," when he first found out something was amiss. "And when we heard the reality, it was like we couldn't even believe. We still don't believe. Her restaurant is just across from my office, and I just feel her presence still there."
Were Bruce and Monica having marital problems?
"It's hard to say. I'm not really close to the couple. From what I know (of) him - I could be wrong - I don't know the story but -- he seems an outstanding guy. He's a good person, as far as I know."
And Daniel Lue, who worked with Bruce when Lue was a contestant on "Survivor: Amazon," says he was "shocked" when told Bruce is a suspect in Monica's death. "When I knew him," Lue recalled for Rodriguez, "he was just a cool, even-tempered type of guy. And you have to be, to be a producer on 'Survivor.' You're dealing with a lot of hungry, cranky 'Survivor' contestants."