The ex-boyfriend of a well-known marriage and sex therapist was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder for throwing the woman from the third-floor balcony of her Hollywood Hills home.
The downtown Los Angeles jury deliberated about two days before convicting Gareth Pursehouse, 45, of Playa del Rey, for the killing of 38-year- old Amie Harwick in the early morning hours of Feb. 15, 2020.
Jurors also found true a special-circumstance allegation of murder while lying in wait. Pursehouse was also found guilty of first-degree burglary of Harwick's home.
He faces life in prison without parole when he is sentenced Dec. 6.
"Obviously, this is a tragic case where the life of Amie Harwick was lost. That's not replaceable," Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila told reporters shortly after the verdict. "I think there was strong evidence to convict the defendant and I think the amount of time they spent shows that it was a thoughtful consideration and they held him fully accountable to all of the charges."
Fellow prosecutor Catherine Mariano said there was "a lot of evidence that really indicates the malicious intent of the defendant and wanting to kill Amie Harwick and punish her so I do think that this was an absolutely just verdict."
Mariano said she thought it was apparent that the defense "wanted to convince the jurors that Amie Harwick climbed over this balcony on her own and incidentally fell to her death."
"... I think the defense was very clear in trying to establish that she was some sort of super hero trying to climb over the balcony and rappel down a building," she said of her rebuttal argument that refuted any Spider- Man-like activities by Harwick. "It just didn't make sense considering all of the evidence pointing in a completely different direction."
One of Pursehouse's attorneys, Robin Bernstein-Lev, had told jurors that the woman could have fallen after climbing over the balcony following a confrontation with her client, whom she said was in the midst of a crisis.
Bernstein-Lev told the panel that her client lost control after being overwhelmed by his emotions and "impulsively broke in" to Harwick's home in a "desperate attempt" to talk with her.
Pursehouse was "suffering a great emotional upheaval -- one that interfered with his thought process" after seeing her in the "chance encounter" about a month earlier that "left him reeling," she said.
"Gareth was consumed by emotions and in a crisis," Pursehouse's lawyer told the panel, saying that is the hallmark of the types of emotions that prevent a person from deliberating a first-degree murder.
"Her death was never his goal," Bernstein-Lev said.
She told jurors that the prosecution had not shown that Harwick didn't go out onto the balcony on her own volition and try to climb over the balcony to escape, noting that jurors had seen an earlier photo of her in which she posed while perched on the balcony.
Bernstein-Lev said a syringe found on the balcony and later determined to contain what prosecutors allege was a lethal dose of nicotine was "not to be used on Amie Harwick" and "not intended to be a weapon." She noted that her client was put on suicide watch following his arrest.
Pursehouse's attorney urged jurors to acquit her client of the most serious charge -- first-degree murder and the accompanying special circumstance allegation.
Prosecutors argued that Harwick was caught by surprise by Pursehouse, who broke into her home, waited for hours, attacked her and tossed her off the third-floor balcony.
Avila told jurors in his closing argument that Pursehouse decided on Valentine's Day to end Harwick's life and that she "doesn't know what's waiting for her at home" when she returned early the next morning after a night out with friends.
The prosecutor said Pursehouse was a "man who couldn't move on," and noted that Harwick had written an email to herself and sent text messages to friends indicating that she was scared of Pursehouse after randomly seeing him at an event about a month earlier and rebuffing his subsequent attempts to stay in contact with her.
"He didn't go there to talk. He's on a mission," the prosecutor said. "He's angry, he feels rejected."
The deputy district attorney said Pursehouse broke into the woman's home, waited for three to four hours, punched and strangled her as she tried to fight for her life and then dropped her over the balcony.
"This is not a defendant who is depressed," Avila said.
The two had dated years earlier for about 18 months, with Harwick ultimately obtaining a restraining order against him in 2012.
In her rebuttal argument, Mariano told jurors that Harwick was "deathly afraid of the defendant at this time." She argued that Pursehouse became angry when his ex-girlfriend "shut him out" when he tried to communicate with her.
"He wanted to punish her by killing her," Mariano said, telling jurors that the woman's injuries do not support the defense's contention that she fell while trying to get down from the balcony.
An autopsy determined that the woman died from "blunt force injuries of the head and torso" and that there was evidence of "manual strangulation," according to records from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's Office.
Police responded to the home at about 1:15 a.m. that day in the 2000 block of Mound Street following a 911 call by Harwick's roommate, who reported hearing her screaming.
Harwick -- a published author who was once briefly engaged to comedian and "The Price is Right" host Drew Carey -- was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
On social media, Carey posted a short video of him with Harwick after news of her death broke and wrote, "I hope you're lucky enough to have someone in your life that loves as much as she did."
Pursehouse was initially arrested at his home on the day Harwick died, but was subsequently released a few days later on a $2 million bond. He was re-arrested four days later on a no-bail warrant and has been held without bail since then.
"It's just been a long time coming," said one of Harwick's friends, Rudy Torres, who has been a fixture in the courtroom since Pursehouse's initial court appearance. "I just felt that I never wanted him to feel comfortable to look over his shoulder and not to see somebody there for her."
Another of Harwick's friends, Robert Coshland, said after the verdict, ``I'm not happy about the fact that we're all here and this has all happened. But as far as the verdict, the jury, I think looked at the evidence ... It's just overwhelming that he had the intention to kill her that day, that night, and so I'm glad that they returned that verdict. Again, like, there's never closure in situations like this, but at least justice was served Thursday and I'm looking forward to the sentencing and not seeing him again.
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