LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A Playa del Rey man was charged and arrested Wednesday with killing his ex-girlfriend, celebrity therapist Amie Harwick, at her Hollywood Hills apartment over the weekend.
Gareth Pursehouse was charged with one count of murder and one count of first-degree residential burglary with the special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, making him eligible for the death penalty, officials said. He is now being held without bail.
Pursehouse is accused of murdering 38-year-old Harwick shortly after 1 a.m. on Feb. 15 by allegedly throwing her over a balcony of her Hollywood Hills apartment. When police arrived, they said they found Harwick on the ground below a balcony. She was taken to a hospital where she died.
Harwick’s death was caused by blunt force injuries to the head and upper body, and there is evidence she had been strangled, the coroner’s office said Thursday.
Pursehouse was re-arrested Wednesday on a no bail warrant after he bonded out of jail Tuesday evening. He was originally arrested Saturday afternoon in connection with her murder and was being held on a $2 million bail.
Harwick applied for a restraining order against Pursehouse on two separate occasions, once in 2011 and again in 2012, but neither were still in effect at the time of the killing. Harwick had seen Pursehouse two weeks prior to the killing, police said.
“He has suffocated me, punched me, slammed my head on the ground, kicked me,” Harwick told police, according to the restraining order.
She said Pursehouse also broke into her apartment complex previously and “smashed 10 picture frames on my door.”
According to the restraining order, Pursehouse also texted Harwick saying “things will get worse,” which prompted her to call the police.
“It was a person whose name would come up over the years as someone she was concerned about,” Robert Coshland, a friend, said. “And she did run into him recently at an event, and he did behave bizarrely and then this happened.”
Dr. Hernando Chavez was with Harwick when that most recent encounter happened.
“He was irate, angry, aggressive, verbally abusive, distraught, under duress,” Chavez said. “And she was trying to calm him down, she was trying to help him soothe, she was trying to be compassionate and empathic.”
One of Harwick’s specialties was helping people who are experiencing domestic violence.
“Amie cannot die in vain,” Chavez said. “Her life had meaning, her life was so important to so many people, and we’ve got to utilize this as an opportunity to move forward with more protection and more safety for people.”
Pursehouse faces the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged. The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.