Nearly a decade before she fell to her death, allegedly during a struggle with an ex-boyfriend, Hollywood sex therapist Amie Harwick described a pattern of stalking, harassment, and violence in court documents seeking protection from the man now charged with her murder. According to the filings, Harwick claimed that between 2011 and 2012, her former partner Gareth Pursehouse had broken into her apartment, assaulted her so badly she left with a bloody nose, and once pushed her from a car on the side of the highway.
“There were multiple arguments in which Gareth Pursehouse choked me, suffocated me, pushed me against walls, kicked me, dropped me to the ground with force, force-restrained me, slammed my head into the ground and punched me with a closed fist,” the former dancer and fire-eater wrote in court documents first obtained by the New York Daily News. “He has told me he hit me ‘because I made him so mad!’ He refused to get help while in [the] relationship.”
Harwick filed the first petition for an order of protection on June 22, 2011, four days after Pursehouse allegedly pushed her from a car, injuring her back, and prompting her to call 911. The request was dismissed over lack of prosecution, according to the court docket, which sometimes means the petitioner declined to follow up. But less than a year later, Harwick filed a second time and got a restraining order. In the second filing, dated March 22, 2012, Harwick described another car incident, which reportedly had left her with a “bloody nose from his roughness.” Pursehouse, a 6-foot-4 software engineer, allegedly broke into her apartment multiple times that month. On one occasion, she wrote, he came to her complex and “smashed 10 picture frames on [her] door,” telling her later that afternoon: “Things will get worse.” The day after, according to the order, Pursehouse returned and, in an apparent attempt at an apology, taped about four dozen roses to the entrance.
According to the LAPD, Harwick had run into Pursehouse a few weeks ago and had “expressed fear” of him. Then, early Saturday morning, police responded to a radio call about a “woman screaming” in the 2000 block of Mound St., a small cul-de-sac tucked in the Hollywood Hills. According to a narrative from the LAPD, Pursehouse broke into the house and attacked Harwick. Her roommate jumped over a wall running to get help, but by the time police got to the house, it was too late. Authorities found Harwick “gravely injured” under a third-floor balcony. She died at the hospital a few hours later.
“LA’s hottest fire eater.”
On Tuesday, the dead-end street where Harwick lived was quiet. A few police officers stood outside her home, a cream split-level with blue and brown trim. By the gate, friends and fans left flowers and notes to her family. “She was very, very happy to live here,” said a petite brunette woman who worked for Harwick as a housekeeper for the past year and asked to speak anonymously. “[Harwick] designed her own house. Every room is different. Because she picked exactly how she wanted every room. It’s beautiful—the bathroom, upstairs, the rooms—everything. It’s very sad. She was very nice, very nice, energetic—a very pretty, very calm person.” The former employee had been scheduled to work at Harwick’s house on Wednesday before a neighbor called and told her about the tragedy.
The therapist was well-known around Los Angeles, partly from her modeling (appearing once as a Playboy centerfold), her regular appearances on podcasts and TV shows, and her brief engagement to Price Is Right game show host Drew Carey. But before that, the Pennsylvania native got a bachelor's degree in psychology from California Polytechnic University, and then a masters at Pepperdine University. In 2014, Harwick published her first book, The New Sex Bible for Women: The Complete Guide to Sexual Self-Awareness and Intimacy. The following year, she appeared as herself in the documentary, Addicted to Sexting, about the rise of digitally mediated intimacy.
While she put herself through school, Harwick worked as a dancer, model, and fire-eater at parties around Hollywood. Jennifer Drilling, founder of the modeling and circus performing company FIREnICE Entertainment, told The Daily Beast she met Harwick in early 2006, and hired her for events that ranged from insomniac festivals to high-end corporate events. After a few years, Drilling began training Harwick to eat fire and stilt-walk. Dancers in Los Angeles didn’t make much money, but fire-eaters and stilt-walkers could charge twice the rate. Practicing every night with open flames, Harwick and Drilling became close friends.
“Amie Nicole took fire the farthest of any person I have ever known,” Drilling said. “She was booking herself every week, charging more than people who used four or five fire tools, even though she just ate fire. In fact, she kind of became the go-to as LA’s hottest fire-eater.”
Mycole Metcalf, an actress and model who started her own agency, met Harwick in 2009. She sat on the local board of the Los Angeles chapter of Karma International, a business networking club that throws parties, where Harwick worked as a host. Metcalf started booking Harwick for gigs and the two grew close. “When I started the agency, my motto was: I want to work with my hot girlfriends. It was all about us working with each other and supporting each other,” Metcalf said. They often did film work for shows and movies that needed a steady supply of “hot models,” as Metcalf put it, like the HBO hit Entourage and The Fast and the Furious franchise. “One of my favorite photos of us was from The Fast and the Furious shoot. It was right after Paul Walker got in that accident, and they had to push the shoot until July. It was so fun. They put us all up in a hotel—just a bunch of rooms, four models to a room. We stayed up all night, because the girls had hair and make-up in the early morning, just laughing.”
“The Worst Kill Tony Set Ever”
A few years into their friendship, Metcalfe learned Harwick had a bad ex-boyfriend in her past. “Oh, I knew about Gareth. I knew she got that restraining order,” Metcalf said. “I knew that it wasn’t a good relationship. It was really difficult, because he was in the same circles that we were always in—I remember her saying, ‘I don't know what to do. I don’t know how to just go about living my life with this guy everywhere I go.’ It kind of blew my mind when I heard about [the alleged murder] because I knew him. He was fun. But he was always quiet.”
Tamie Sheffield, a travel consultant who modeled with Harwick in the early 2000s, said she had met Gareth at events in the Hollywood social circuit. He had been a member of Karma, she said, and a frequent guest at the Playboy Mansion parties (Karma International did not immediately return requests for comment to confirm whether Pursehouse had been a member).
“I knew him socially,” Sheffield said. “But he was just always fun, smiling, very sociable. I haven’t seen him for many years, but from my recollection of the past—just that fun, party boy, very sociable, major extrovert. He was—I don’t want to say ‘frat boy,’ but I say that in a fun way. I just never pictured him in any kind of harmful way. I’d never seen him in an angry mood. I just was in shock that this happened—complete utter shock.”
Pursehouse was arrested hours after Harwick’s death and was released from Los Angeles County Jail Tuesday night on a $2 million bond. It’s unclear if the 41-year-old has retained a lawyer. According to his LinkedIn profile, Pursehouse has worked as a photographer and software engineer since 2006. Until his arrest, Pursehouse ran a fairly active Twitter account, @GarethFromAbove, where he made pedestrian jokes and comments about national politics. On Valentine’s Day, he tweeted, “I can’t figure out why gerrymandering isn’t a federal crime.” Days earlier, he wrote derisively about musicians who use Autotune: “#Prince #Queen and #TheBeatles hate your fake music, poser.”
On his Instagram last May, Pursehouse posted a video of himself, shirtless, making a joke about another person who pushed someone through a window. “Okay, Game of Thrones, first season. The brother and sister are up in the castle and the kid sees them from the window. The brother has to go and throw the kid off and kill him,” Pursehouse said. “And even though it's evil, I feel like of bad for the brother, because even though he doesn't want to do it, his sister incested.”
Pursehouse also spent some time doing stand-up comedy–much of it, as one might expect from the defenestration joke, not good. On Sunday, footage emerged of the photographer appearing on the live comedy podcast Kill Tony, hosted by Tony Hinchcliffe and Brian Redban at the Comedy Store in Hollywood. In the segment, recorded on Jan. 20, 2020, Pursehouse ambled onstage in loose jeans and a red button-down. Nervous, he made a wrong turn en route to the stage, taking so long the hosts began singing. The set went downhill from there. Pursehouse launched into a monologue of barely coherent political jokes.
“So over the summer, Trump yanked all the troops out of Syria, right, and Isis got loose—they’re knocking on doors, running away or something like that, I don’t really know how it works,” he said. “And I thought he shoulda asked Tony if it’s a bad idea, because he broke the bank relying on the pullout method—the quickest-coming comedian in comedy.”
No one laughed. Over the 10-minute set, Pursehouse continued to bomb, while revealing small details about himself—that he had written jokes for two to three years; that he had arrived with a “way too hot date;” and that he “likes to build stuff... always trying to think of a cool invention.” When asked about his inventions, Pursehouse started to respond—“Nothing successful, right now I’m trying to figure out…”—but got cut off by one of the hosts, who finished for him: “How to have the worst Kill Tony set ever?”
The roast didn’t seem to register. “Well,” he continued, “right now I’m trying to figure out a water conservation project.”
Before Pursehouse got kicked off stage, the hosts begged him for “an example of a joke you were going to say before we all lost respect for you…one normal joke.” Pursehouse responded: “I was talking to an ex-from a long time ago and she told me that when we first met, she thought my personality meant I had a small dick. And I talked to another ex and she told me the same exact thing. And I just want to make it perfectly clear right now: my dick size is private.”
To that, a member of the band piped up: “I’m really glad you came up here because I didn’t think it was possible for me to hate a man as much as I hate my husband.”
“Change the Laws”
Pursehouse’s arraignment has not yet been set. But there could well be other legal action in the case. On Tuesday, a woman named Diana Arias circulated a Change.org petition called “Justice 4 Amie.” The petition sketched out Harwick’s story and outlined a list of demands, all directed at the California legal system’s treatment of domestic violence. Arias sought the elimination of restraining order expiration dates, mandatory in-person long-term counseling for abusers, accommodations for witnesses if they do not want to testify in a courtroom near their abusers, and a registry for known perpetrators of domestic violence. The petition asked for 25,000 signatures. By Tuesday evening, there were nearly 22,000.
“I signed the petition and I shared it on my Facebook,” Sheffield said. “I, unfortunately, also had an ex-boyfriend stalker and I had to get a restraining order. It was not easy to get one! And it’s hard to get it extended. This should not be. For obvious reasons.”
“[Amie] would want what happened to her to save other women,” said Metcalf, who also signed the petition and shared it on Facebook.
“She would want to make these restraining orders not expire, to make it not so difficult to get one in the first place. It’s awful but this happens a lot but we don't hear about it because these women aren't in the public eye. I can't even tell you how many of my model and actress friends were texting me that they were in a similar situation. Now, we’re just all trying to work together to change these laws.”