Prosecutors outline grim details in trial of ex-boyfriend accused of killing Hollywood therapist

Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Closing arguments for man accused of killing Hollywood therapist
Jurors heard closing arguments Tuesday in the trial of 45-year-old Gareth Pursehouse, charged with murdering his ex-girlfriend in February 2020.

HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Jurors heard closing arguments Tuesday in the trial of 45-year-old Gareth Pursehouse, who is charged with murdering his ex-girlfriend in February 2020.

The victim was 38-year-old Amie Harwick, who lived in the Hollywood Hills and worked as a family and sex therapist. Harwick was haunted by one of her own past relationships in the weeks leading up to her death.

Pursehouse and Harwick dated for a year and a half. In 2012 Harwick filed restraining orders against him, saying he was physically and emotionally abusive. They wouldn't see each other until 2020, when fate forced their paths cross at a convention.

In the defense's closing arguments today, attorney Robin Bernstein-Lev described Pursehouse as a man in crisis, suggesting he had no closure after the breakup with Harwick.

A series of text messages show Pursehouse repeatedly contacting Harwick, unsatisfied with her assertions that they should both move on.

"He can't get past this, and it demolishes him to have to acknowledge this to her," said Bernstein-Lev. "He's not manipulating her. He's revealing his darkest secret to her."

Harwick blocked his number in Pursehouse's relentlessness. But doing so couldn't deflect the fear she had that he may do something more. She wrote an email to herself after their encounter, chronicling how his behavior made her feel. Soon after, a maintenance worker upgraded her home security to address her concerns.

On Valentine's Day 2020, Pursehouse allegedly broke into Harwick's home and waited for her to arrive. While the defense refers to him wanting to "talk" as his motivation, prosecutors say he was there for one thing: to kill.

Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila showed surveillance video, photos and quoted testimony in his assertion that Pursehouse attacked Harwick, strangled her, then threw her over the third story balcony. The defense argues Harwick could have fallen off of the balcony in an attempt to escape. It is unclear whether Harwick was conscious during the final fall.

On the balcony, investigators found a lethal dose of nicotine in a syringe.

"That does not just happen out of nowhere," said Avila. "That does not land on his lap. He has to go get that. He has to go obtain that. It's a poison that, if you inject it into someone, it may not be detected unless they're looking for it."

The defense argues Pursehouse never intended to use the nicotine against Harwick, alluding to his mental instability to suggest he was suicidal.

Pursehouse faces one count of murder with the "Lying in Wait" special circumstance, and one count of burglary. If convicted, he could face life in prison.