Slain Hollywood therapist’s chance encounter with ex-boyfriend might have led to killing
In the years after she left a toxic relationship with a freelance photographer, Amie Harwick thrived. She earned a doctorate in human sexuality, built a busy therapy practice, authored an erotic manual for women and enjoyed a high-profile romance with comedian Drew Carey.
Then last month, she ran into the ex-boyfriend, Gareth Pursehouse, at a professional event that she was attending and he was assigned to photograph.
“It was the absolute worst possible luck,” said Beverly Hills sex therapist Hernando Chaves, a close friend who was with Harwick at the event. The chance encounter, Chaves said, seemed to “reignite his obsessive preoccupation with her.”
Harwick, 38, was fatally attacked in her Hollywood Hills residence early Saturday morning, and authorities have arrested Pursehouse, a 41-year-old from Playa del Rey, on suspicion of murder. According to his LinkedIn account, Pursehouse has worked as a software developer and a photographer.
Friends said Harwick had largely considered the relationship an artifact of the past until the January meeting.
“She said that when he saw her, he just went ballistic. He lost it. He made a scene,” said friend Vera Duffy, who interviewed Harwick for a podcast three days later and talked with her off-microphone about the incident.
Duffy recalled Harwick saying that Pursehouse blamed her for ruining his life.
“She was very scared. ... She said, ‘What am I going to do? I let my roommate know, I have home security,’” Duffy recalled.
Police were summoned to Harwick’s residence early Saturday morning after reports of a woman screaming. Officers found her unconscious and mortally wounded under a third-floor balcony with injuries consistent with a fall. Her roommate, who met arriving officers in the street, said Harwick was attacked in the home and he had narrowly escaped by jumping a wall, authorities said.
LAPD investigators searching for clues in Harwick’s home found “possible evidence of a struggle in the upstairs as well as forced entry to the residence,” the department said in a statement.
Pursehouse is being held in lieu of $2 million bail, according to jail records.
It’s unclear how he would have known where Harwick was living. The pair had shared a home for a couple of years a decade ago at another location, friends said. Their relationship deteriorated and Harwick twice applied for restraining orders against him, according to court records.
She got a temporary restraining order in 2011 but apparently did not attend a follow-up hearing at the Superior Court branch in Van Nuys and the order was dismissed “for lack of prosecution,” an electronic docket shows.
Nine months later, Harwick went back to the same courthouse and got another temporary restraining order. In an April 2012 hearing on whether to extend the protective order, she and Pursehouse both gave evidence and the judge granted her request for protection, according to the docket.
What led her to seek the restraining orders and the terms of those orders are not disclosed in the dockets, and the files were not available Monday because of the Presidents Day holiday.
In Harwick’s circle of patients, friends and colleagues, there was a sense of shock and disbelief. Several people interviewed used the present tense when speaking about her compassion and empathy.
Drew Carey described himself in a statement as “overcome with grief.”
“Amie and I had a love that people are lucky to have once in a lifetime,” he said. The pair dated for two years and were engaged before breaking up in 2018. “She was a positive force in the world, a tireless and unapologetic champion for women, and passionate about her work as a therapist.”
In addition to her West Hollywood private practice, Harwick wrote about sexuality for several magazines and authored the 2014 book “The New Sex Bible for Women.”
Before becoming a therapist, she had worked as a performance artist and “fire eater.” That work gave her empathy for many outsiders in Hollywood, including adult film actors and sex workers, friends said.
She volunteered with the nonprofit Pineapple Support Services, which provides low-cost mental health services to those employed in the adult film industry, seeing clients one-on-one and running a weekly support group.
“She really, really wanted to help society, and she had so many great ideas to reach out to underserved communities,” said L.A. sex therapist Moushumi Ghose, who helped train Harwick.
Among Harwick’s specialties was helping women recognize abusive relationships and offering support as they removed themselves. Longtime friend Chaves said the way she died only emphasized how difficult that work was.
“She did everything she could do to protect herself, and this person still sought her out and was violent toward her,” Chaves said. “That is what people I hope are going to see — not the sensationalism of her dating Drew Carey or being a ‘Hollywood sex therapist’... but that our system is not protecting women.”
Interviewed last month on the podcast “Datey Ladies” hosted by Duffy and her sister, Barbara Ann, Harwick said she tried to provide the general public with a “Cliffs Notes” version of everything she had learned about relationships.
“One of the scariest things about this,” Barbara Ann Duffy said, “is that Amie had healthier boundaries than a lot of women, and that seemed only to be a challenge to that person to hurt her.”
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