Fatal Obsession: Inside the Tragic Murder Case of Hollywood Sex Therapist Amie Harwick
In the early hours of Feb. 15, Los Angeles police officers responded to a radio call of a “woman screaming” in the Hollywood Hills. There, officers found 38-year-old sex therapist Amie Harwick mortally wounded after allegedly being thrown over the third-story balcony of her home.
The coroner said Harwick died of blunt force injuries to her head and torso. There was also evidence of manual strangulation.
Last week, Harwick’s ex-boyfriend Gareth Pursehouse was charged with murder and residential burglary “with the special circumstance allegation of lying in wait.”
“She was an outspoken advocate for women,” her best friend Robert Coshland tells PEOPLE. “She would talk about these kinds of statistics about women being injured and killed by boyfriends. She became a statistic of something she actively talked about and lectured and helped people with all the time. It’s just doubly, triply tragic.”
Here are five things to know about the tragic death.
Harwick channeled her fear of Pursehouse into helping others
Harwick and Pursehouse had dated a decade ago, but their relationship soured and Harwick sought two protective orders against him. The last order expired in 2015.
“He kept finding her, kept seeking her out,” her friend Hernando Chaves says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “He didn’t respect the end of the relationship.”
Friends say Harwick began channeling her experiences into helping women and found her true calling as a therapist and teacher.
Harwick was a “Renaissance Woman” who loved her life and had recently bought her dream home
Arriving in Hollywood in 2001, two years after graduating high school in the Philadelphia suburbs, Harwick hustled for jobs—dancing, modeling, party planning—to pay her way through college. In recent years, she became a family and sex therapist and bought her dream home in the Hollywood Hills.
“She was on a very good path, in a very good place,” her friend Eric Breslow tells PEOPLE. “She was always just a spark of joy.”
Breslow described her as a “Renaissance woman” with eclectic tastes and a magnetic personality.
“She loved old music. She loved everything vintage,” he says. “She was not some L.A. party girl. She was cultured. She was studied. She looked like she was a put-together throwback from an era gone by.”
Read more about the murder of Amie Harwick in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Harwick had a chance encounter with Pursehouse one month before he allegedly killed her
It was a night that Harwick — who was once engaged to “Price is Right” star Drew Carey — had been looking forward to: an adult industry awards show at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles. Harwick was excited about taking photos on the red carpet.
But then, Chaves says, Harwick had a chance encounter with Pursehouse, who was there to take photographs at the event.
“Initially, he reacted with anger and hostility and he was yelling and she kind of jumped into therapist mode,” Chaves says about the Jan. 16 confrontation.
Chaves says Pursehouse approached Harwick again after the show.
“It was a very tense, very anxious and very fearful night for her in many respects,” he says.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE’s free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
Harwick had “hilarious” text exchange with friend on day of her murder
Harwick’s Valentine’s Day text chain with her best friend Robert Coshland was a daylong “hilarious” back and forth about bad dates and dating apps.
“She was just like, ‘I’m sick of men,'” Coshland says. “’My cat is the love of my life.’”
That evening, she went out for a fun night with some girlfriends to a burlesque show. When she got home around 1 a.m., Coshland says, she returned a text from him about a restaurant he wanted to try in Scotland where he, his wife and Harwick planned to visit in April.
“She responded, ‘Wow, that looks great,'” he says. “And within 10 minutes, she was dead.“
Drew Carey breaks down after ex-fiancee Harwick’s death
Drew Carey was filled with emotion when he reflected on his relationship with Harwick on Friday’s episode of his Sirius XM show Drew Carey’s Friday Night Freak-Out.
“She was beautiful and fun, and cared deeply about people and improving their lives and was just a joy to be around. I was so in love with her,” he said.
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.