Slain Therapist Amie Harwick Was a 'Totally Unique Person' Who Lived to Help Others, Say Friends
"She lived five or six lives by the age of 38," her friend said
By all accounts, Amie Harwick was a brilliant, selfless woman with a magnetic personality whose tragic killing early Saturday morning — allegedly at the hands of an ex-boyfriend — is being mourned by many people.
PEOPLE has spoken to friends of the 38-year-old celebrity sex and family therapist, who say that the former fiancée of comedian Drew Carey was extremely social. She frequently attended gala events and fashion shows in Los Angeles, where she had become a fixture on the local music scene.
“Helping people and music were the two things closest to her heart,” says Ro Kohli, who first befriended Harwick when she was a teenager. “Her death has reverberated throughout every industry here in Los Angeles, because everyone she met … I won’t say they fell in love with her, but you always had a smile afterwards. She was an incredibly nice person who impacted a lot more than the people who were her friends, and that’s something that cannot be understated.”
In addition to her career working with couples and families, Kohli says Harwick served on the board of directors for Rock to Recovery, an organization that helps musicians in treatment through an innovative approach to music therapy.
In a statement, Rock to Recovery described Harwick as “a powerful, expressive, inspiring woman,” adding, “There are few like her.”
This week, police charged Harwick’s ex, Gareth Pursehouse, with burglary and her murder, alleging the 41-year-old waited outside her Hollywood Hills apartment for her to return before attacking her inside her home.
Authorities say Harwick died from blunt force injuries she sustained after allegedly being thrown by Pursehouse over a third-story balcony, and that there was also evidence of strangulation. Pursehouse is being held in custody without bond, and has not entered pleas to any of the charges he faces.
Pursehouse’s attorney, public defender Patrick Hare, did not return PEOPLE’s call for comment.
Investigators have not commented publicly on a possible motive for the killing, but Harwick sought two protective orders against Pursehouse alleging threatening behavior, which two friends characterized as “stalking” to PEOPLE. Harwick was granted a protective order in 2011, which expired last month.
Harwick ‘Lived 5 or 6 Lives by the Age of 38’: Friend
Mark Hunter, who first met Harwick two decades ago while on tour with his now-defunct band, Chimaira, is still reeling from the shock of Harwick’s killing. According to Hunter, Harwick was “an intellect” and a “totally unique person who had a good energy” — as well as several fascinating interests and abilities.
“She was very cultured,” Hunter explains. “She was into true crime and oddities. I know she recently bought some of Sharon Tate‘s bras, for instance. She lived five or six lives by the age of 38. All the things she accomplished in that time, and in so many diverse fields. She was sweet and so smart. She was accomplished, she was a model. I remember once I turned on the TV, and I’m like, ‘Is that Amie on The Real Housewives, swallowing fire in the background?’ And it was.”
Harwick was also an author and had also acted in three independent films. She even appeared in, and helped produce, several rock videos, including one for “Resurrection,” a song by Hunter’s band.
“Not only is she in that video, but she also helped me conceive the whole idea and hired every model that was in the video,” says Hunter. “She was very involved in the style of how everything was going to go down in the video. It was a fun project for her and she really helped us bring the video to life.”
Neither Hunter nor Kohli knows anything about her former relationship with Pursehouse; Harwick twice sought protective orders against her alleged killer,
“Amie didn’t deserve what happened to her,” Kohli tells PEOPLE. “She was a sweetheart of a person. She was smart and I always got a fun vibe from her. She was a girl who knew how to handle herself, take care of herself — she had the strength to take care of herself. There’s a big sense of loss here.”
Comic Says Suspect Had ‘American Psycho Energies’
On Jan. 30, weeks before Harwick’s death, Pursehouse appeared on stage at Los Angeles’s fabled Comedy Store as part of a live taping of writer and comedian Tony Hinchcliffe’s podcast, Kill Tony. Each week, members of the show’s audience enter their names into a drawing, and the winners are given one minute of stage time to test out their own stand-up material. After their respective sets, Hinchcliffe interviews each winner about their lives and interests. On that particular night, Pursehouse’s name was chosen out of Hinchcliffe’s bucket of names. Footage of his performance has gone viral in the wake of his arrest.
During the Jan. 20 podcast taping, Pursehouse used his time to hurl insults at Hinchcliffe and Kill Tony co-host, comedian Brian Redban.
“Most people come on the show and they use it as an opportunity to really show things that they’ve prepared and worked on, and in the interview, we find out more about them, and they have the opportunity to really show their more likeable side,” Hinchcliffe tells PEOPLE. “With this guy, it was quite the opposite. He came on and burnt bridges right out of the gate.”
Hinchcliffe says he got “American Psycho energies” from Pursehouse during their brief interaction on stage, referencing the book and movie about a serial killer.
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“It is very telling when someone comes up and tries to make fun of the people the entire room is there to see — especially when it’s not prepared,” he says. “You can really tell someone has a dark side in how they treat an opportunity like that, so I wasn’t surprised when I found this out about him.
“It was like he attacked with a smile, thinking that would work,” Hinchcliffe continues. “I was actually surprised when I watched that clip back, and I didn’t say he had murder energies, because that is something I say to people on that show quite a bit. I have to go back and look, but I probably said that to someone who went on earlier in the show because that’s the only reason why I wouldn’t have said that to him.”
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.