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Man Gets Life Without Parole for Killing Well-Known Marriage, Sex Therapist

Man Gets Life Without Parole for Killing Well-Known Marriage, Sex Therapist

A court's gavel. (Dreamstime/TNS)

City News Service

City News Service

12/6/2023

Updated: 12/6/2023

LOS ANGELES—The ex-boyfriend of a well-known marriage and sex therapist was sentenced Dec. 6 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the woman’s deadly plunge from the third-floor balcony of her Hollywood Hills home.
Gareth Pursehouse, 45, of Playa del Rey, was convicted of first-degree murder for the killing of 38-year-old Amie Harwick in the early morning hours of Feb. 15, 2020.
Jurors deliberated about two days before finding Mr. Pursehouse guilty Sept. 28 of Ms. Harwick’s killing, along with the first-degree burglary of Ms. Harwick’s home.
The panel also found true a special circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait.
Prosecutors argued during the trial that Ms. Harwick was caught by surprise by Mr. Pursehouse, who broke into her home, waited for hours, attacked her, and then tossed her off the third-floor balcony.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila told jurors that Mr. Pursehouse decided on Valentine’s Day to end Ms. Harwick’s life and that she “doesn’t know what’s waiting for her at home” when she returned early the next morning after a night out with friends.
The prosecutor said Mr. Pursehouse was a “man who couldn’t move on,” and noted that Ms. Harwick had written an email to herself and sent text messages to friends indicating that she was scared of Mr. Pursehouse after randomly seeing him at an event about a month earlier and rebuffing his subsequent attempts to stay in contact with her.
The deputy district attorney said Mr. Pursehouse broke into the woman’s home, waited for three to four hours, punched and strangled her as she tried to fight for her life, and then dropped her over the balcony.
“This is not a defendant who is depressed,” Mr. Avila said.
The two had dated years earlier for about 18 months, with Ms. Harwick ultimately obtaining a restraining order against him in 2012.
One of Mr. Pursehouse’s attorneys, Robin Bernstein-Lev, told jurors that the woman could have fallen after climbing over the balcony following a confrontation with her client, whom she said was in the midst of a crisis.
Ms. Bernstein-Lev told the panel that her client lost control after being overwhelmed by his emotions and “impulsively broke in” to Ms. Harwick’s home in a “desperate attempt” to talk with her.
Mr. Pursehouse was “suffering a great emotional upheaval—one that interfered with his thought process” after seeing her in the “chance encounter” about a month earlier that “left him reeling,” she said.
“Gareth was consumed by emotions and in a crisis,” Mr. Pursehouse’s lawyer told the panel, saying that is the hallmark of the types of emotions that prevent a person from deliberating a first-degree murder.
“Her death was never his goal,” Ms. Bernstein-Lev said.
She told jurors that the prosecution had not shown that Ms. Harwick didn’t go out onto the balcony on her own volition and try to climb over the balcony to escape, noting that jurors had seen an earlier photo of her in which she posed while perched on the balcony.
Ms. Bernstein-Lev said a syringe found on the balcony and later determined to contain what prosecutors allege was a lethal dose of nicotine “not to be used on Amie Harwick”, and “not intended to be a weapon.” She noted that her client was put on suicide watch following his arrest.
An autopsy determined that the woman died from “blunt force injuries of the head and torso” and that there was evidence of “manual strangulation,” according to records from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Police responded to the home at about 1:15 a.m. that day in the 2000 block of Mound Street following a 911 call by Ms. Harwick’s roommate, who reported hearing her screaming.
Ms. Harwick—a published author who was once briefly engaged to comedian and “The Price is Right” host Drew Carey—was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
On social media, Mr. Carey posted a short video of him with Ms. Harwick after news of her death broke and wrote, “I hope you’re lucky enough to have someone in your life that loves as much as she did.”
Mr. Pursehouse was initially arrested at his home on the day Ms. Harwick died, but was subsequently released a few days later on a $2 million bond. He was re-arrested four days later on a no-bail warrant and has been held without bail since then.
“It’s just been a long time coming,” one of Ms. Harwick’s friends, Rudy Torres, said after the verdict.
Another of Ms. Harwick’s friends, Robert Coshland, said after the verdict, “I’m not happy about the fact that we’re all here and this has all happened. But as far as the verdict, the jury, I think, looked at the evidence ... It’s just overwhelming that he had the intention to kill her that day, that night, and so I’m glad that they returned that verdict. Again, like, there’s never closure in situations like this, but at least justice was served today and I’m looking forward to the sentencing and not seeing him again.”
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