Amie Harwick’s killer was making a statement with post-Valentine’s murder, says prosecutor


It’s been almost four years since Hollywood therapist Amie Harwick was murdered on Feb. 15, 2020. For the first time, the man who tried to save her opens up about what happened.

Harwick’s roommate, Michael Herman, can never erase the memories of what happened to his friend in the early morning hours after Valentine’s Day 2020.

“I remember thinking like this is so much worse than any horror movie I’ve ever seen,” Herman tells “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty. “I just was, uh, woken up by screaming … like bloodcurdling scream … And I yelled up, you know, ‘Amie!’ And I heard choking right after that.”

Herman was in a downstairs bedroom when the attack happened. He was unable to find his phone and ran to their next-door neighbor’s house to get help, but there was no answer. He was finally able to use the phone of a stranger on the street. 

Amie Harwick
“I was so proud of her and what she’s accomplished,” Tom Harwick said of his daughter Amie.

Robert Coshland


When LAPD officers arrived, they discovered Harwick gravely injured under her third-story balcony. On her balcony, there was a strange clue: a syringe filled with a mysterious yellowish-brown substance. There was no sign of Harwick’s attacker, but investigators later discovered evidence of an intruder – a shattered window of a French door. Harwick died at the hospital.

“She’s gone and I’m still here,” says Herman.

“Michael Herman has a lot of survivor’s guilt,” Moriarty tells Harwick’s parents.

“Oh, my goodness,” Penny Harwick says, “He did the exact right thing.”

Tom Harwick adds, “He made all the right decisions.”

A VIOLENT DEATH IN THE HOLLYWOOD HILLS

POLICE OFFICER (bodycam video to Michael Herman): Take a seat. Take a seat.

POLICE OFFICER (to Amie Harwick): Ma’am.

MICHAEL HERMAN: Oh, my God.

POLICE OFFICER: We — we need — we need an ambulance. … Ma’am, what happened to you?

In the early morning darkness of Feb. 15, 2020, police body cameras were recording as Amie Harwick – barely clinging to life outside of her Hollywood Hills home – was taken to a hospital.

POLICE OFFICER (bodycam video): If she says anything in the hospital, we need to know that.

As EMTs tried to save Amie, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department tried to make sense of the scene. Amie’s roommate, Michael Herman, appeared to be the only witness. He told the officers an intruder had attacked Amie.

MICHAEL HERMAN (bodycam video): I swear to you that was a struggle I heard.

Erin Moriarty: But is there any sign of the intruder?

Det. Scott Masterson: There wasn’t. There wasn’t.

Scott Masterson was the lead detective.

Det. Scott Masterson: All we knew when we showed up was that a female was found on the ground in the back of the house. … We’re wide open to … what really went on.

Even open to the possibility that this wasn’t foul play at all. When officers searched the three-story house, they found Amie’s purse, jacket and broken necklace on the floor — not exactly tell-tale signs of a crime — and a discovery on Amie’s balcony made them wonder if this could have been an accident or even suicide.

Det. Scott Masterson: On the deck of the balcony, we found … a medium-size syringe and it was loaded with a yellowish-brown substance.

POLICE OFFICER (bodycam video): Yeah, it’s heroin.

Erin Moriarty When the officers first saw that they thought, what? Was this some kind of drug deal?

Det. Scott Masterson: Yeah, exactly … or maybe she was using drugs and fell over. …They didn’t know.

POLICE OFFICER (bodycam video): Sir, do you know her history of drug use?

MICHAEL HERMAN: No, she’s sober. She doesn’t drink. She didn’t even drink.

POLICE OFFICER: She doesn’t drink?

MICHAEL HERMAN: She doesn’t even drink. She’s sober.

Det. Scott Masterson: And when I first saw it, I said, “That’s not heroin.”

Not heroin. But Masterson didn’t know what it was.

Erin Moriarty: But what did you think? Wasn’t that odd?

Det. Scott Masterson: Very odd. Very strange.

And very strange to investigators, says Masterson, was that Herman had blood on his shirt. Although he said he was a roommate, he didn’t have his keys to the house when first responders arrived.

Det. Scott Masterson: They don’t know if he’s part of the problem, part of the solution.

POLICE OFFICER (bodycam video): He might be a suspect, dude, because he’s got blood on him.

Det. Scott Masterson: So, you know, they’re … thinking, “Was he in a fight with her?”

Michael Herman
Michael Herman talks about the night of Amie Harwick’s death and how he tried to save her with “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty. “She’s gone and I’m still here,” said Herman.

CBS News


That was not true. Herman is telling his story publicly for the first time about the events on the night of Valentine’s Day 2020 and into the early hours of the next day.

Erin Moriarty: The word nightmare isn’t even a big enough word, is it?

Michael Herman: (shakes his head) No, no …

Amie had gone out with friends and Herman was in his downstairs bedroom.

Michael Herman: I’d been mostly nodding on and off, I remember what sounded like a plate dropping, being woken up by it.

Thinking it was Amie’s cat, he says he fell back asleep. He later woke up to Amie returning home and that bloodcurdling scream. He then heard what sounded like Amie being thrown to the floor, and later, choked.

Erin Moriarty: The sound made you feel that there was someone up with her.

Michael Herman: I knew — I knew for a fact there was somebody up there after that. … I’m trying to listen … you don’t know for sure what’s going on … Was he acting alone? Was there more than one person? … I start rushing to look for my phone.

But Herman says he couldn’t find his phone. He then started yelling to scare the intruder.

Michael Herman: I remember thinking like this is so much worse than any horror movie I’ve ever seen … you’re realizing that to save her like … you’ve gotta …make the decision to leave her … it was such a hard decision.

Michael Herman seeking help
A security camera at at home next door shows Michael Herman knocking on the neighbor’s door.

Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles


Herman fled the house to get help, but when he got to the front gate, it was locked. He climbed over a fence, cutting himself on spiked rods. Frantically, he ran to the next-door neighbor’s house. That neighbor’s surveillance camera shows Herman knocking on the door, but no one answers.

Michael Herman: I just … kind of panicked, you know, feeling like a lot of time had already passed.

He then ran into someone on the street and used their phone to call 911.

MICHAEL HERMAN (to 911): You guys need to get a cop here quick.

911 DISPATCHER: Sir, the officers are on the way.

After spending hours at the scene, investigators found something in the light of day that they had missed before: a broken window from a French door on the ground floor with blood nearby.

Amie Harwick evidence
 In the light of day, investigators spotted a broken glass panel on the French doors of Harwick’s home. “As soon as we saw that, OK … This is our point of entry,” Det. Scott Masterson said.

Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles


Det. Scott Masterson: So, as soon as we saw that, OK … This is our point of entry. … We have a crime here. … Somebody broke into this house and did this.

Erin Moriarty: So, this was the first piece of evidence that said to you Mike Herman might be telling you the truth?

Det. Scott Masterson: Correct. Correct.

Later, at the Hollywood police station, Herman told Masterson about the person he believed was responsible.

Michael Herman: I told them she had an ex-boyfriend that she had had a restraining order against, that had expired. … I don’t know his name, but Robert would know his name.

Robert is Robert Coshland, one of Amie’s closest friends. “48 Hours” first spoke to Coshland in 2020. He told us what he told police.

Robert Coshland (2020): And they were like, you know, “Do you know who might have, you know, could have done this?” And I was like, “Yeah, Gareth.”

Gareth Pursehouse — an old boyfriend whom Amie had a troubled relationship with when they dated almost 10 years earlier.

Robert Coshland: I was like … “You need to go find this guy right away.”

Masterson then broke the news to Coshland and Herman: Amie had died at the hospital. She was 38 years old.

Erin Moriarty: How difficult was it to hear that Amie didn’t make it?

Michael Herman: It’s still difficult to hear …

As investigators worked to find Amie’s ex-boyfriend, they also tried to find Amie’s parents Penny and Tom Harwick in Pennsylvania. The Harwicks remember getting ready for bed when there was a knock at the door. It was the local police.

Penny Harwick: And he said … “Amie’s been murdered” (cries).

Tom Harwick: It — it’s — it’s a blur right now.

Penny Harwick: I don’t know how to describe it, I —

Tom Harwick: Just devastated.

Penny and Tom’s life with Amie began when they adopted her as an 11-month-old baby. 

Erin Moriarty: Do you remember the first time you saw your little girl?

Penny Harwick: Oh, I absolutely remember … kind of like a fairy tale. … here’s this beautiful little girl sitting there and she’s going to come home with us and — and be our daughter. It was wonderful.

Tom Harwick: And believe it or not, she had a head full of curls.

Penny Harwick: And her hair was honey colored. … By the time she was 4, it was so dark.

Harwick family
The Harwick family

Harwick family


Around that same time, the Harwicks adopted their son, Chris.

Penny Harwick: She was OK with it for a couple of weeks. And then she said, “Well, when is he going back?” (laughs) … And I said, “Well, he’s not. He’s your brother. He’s gonna be here forever.”

Erin Moriarty: How would you describe your sister?

Chris Harwick: Amie was a very interesting, uh, character. … She was into heavy metal and rock music, going to concerts.

And Amie got her parents in on the action, too.

Tom Harwick: She turned Penny and I into metalheads or headbangers.

Penny Harwick: She did.

Erin Moriarty: Seriously?

Penny Harwick: Seriously.

Tom Harwick: She would always manage to get either backstage or to meet the performers. That’s just who she was.

After high school, Amie met Tommy Decker, a drummer from L.A. at a local concert. The two began dating long distance.

Penny Harwick: And then she said, “I wanna move out there. I wanna move out to L.A.”

In 2001, she headed west. She was 20 years old.

Penny Harwick: She needed to find out who she was. She needed to do that for herself.

Soon, the couple tied the knot. But after a three-year marriage, Decker and Amie divorced. It wasn’t until 2009, that Amie would go on to meet Gareth Pursehouse — the man police suspected had killed her, and whom they were now searching for.

GARETH PURSEHOUSE’S TROUBLED PAST

Det. Scott Masterson: I was very confident that, you know, Gareth Pursehouse was our guy.

Within 13 hours of Amie Harwick’s death on Feb. 15, 2020, police descended on Pursehouse’s beachside neighborhood to arrest him.

Det. Scott Masterson: You could tell he was playing the old, what’s this about, why do you wanna talk, who, uh — oh yeah, I know Amie, sure, yeah. …He, basically, was saying I’ve been at home.

Detectives weren’t buying that story or the explanation Pursehouse gave for what appeared to be a fresh black eye: he blamed a home renovation.

Det. Scott Masterson: I said, “I think you better get a contractor. … if you get a hold of a power tool, you’re gonna be in real trouble.”

Gareth Pursehouse
Gareth Pursehouse was charged with Amie Harwick’s murder on Feb. 19, 2020.

DA County of Los Angeles


Pursehouse was charged with Amie’s murder on Feb. 19, 2020, and detectives were learning about his troubled past — beginning not long after he and Amie began dating in 2009.

Rudy Torres (2020): They seemed like a pretty fun couple, and kinda nice to see, you know, friends get together.

When “48 Hours” first spoke to Rudy Torres in 2020, he talked about how the couple met:  Amie, then working as a model and dancer, would often run into Pursehouse, an events photographer, at flashy L.A. parties.

Rudy Torres (2020): If you would meet him you would think he’s charming. A little goofy. Kinda dorky.

Erin Moriarty: He wasn’t a musician like she normally dated?

Penny Harwick: No, no, no. And she was trying to break that habit (laughs).

Pursehouse was also a computer expert and an aspiring comedian, but oddly, says Amie’s mother Penny, her daughter didn’t share much else about him.

Erin Moriarty: And why do you think that is?

Penny Harwick: Well, maybe she was already feeling like he wasn’t who she thought he was.

And Penny says her daughter never shared how volatile the two-year relationship had become.

Det. Scott Masterson: She had gone through … quite a bit … with Gareth. There was … a number of police reports that were made.

Amie Harwick and Gareth Pursehouse
Amie Harwick and Gareth Pursehouse

Detectives learned that Amie had called police to report several violent incidents over the years. She said that on multiple occasions Pursehouse had “choked,” “suffocated” and “punched” her “with a closed fist,” and she even documented her injuries with these photos. But Amie’s father Tom says Amie didn’t share just how bad things had gotten.

Tom Harwick: She didn’t go into details.

Erin Moriarty: Do you think she just wanted to protect the two of you?

Penny Harwick: I think so.

Tom Harwick: Yes, yes.

After Amie ended the relationship, she took steps to protect herself by obtaining a restraining order against Pursehouse in 2012. But while she was trying to distance herself from him, Torres says, Pursehouse could not let her go.

Rudy Torres: He always wanted to — get ahold of her … And I used to tell him … that he should just leave her alone … And he wouldn’t take no for an answer. … And then he cut me off.

In the years after their breakup, Amie told her parents her home was broken into. On one occasion, strangely, the only things taken were personal photos, and on another, her computer was wiped clean.

Erin Moriarty: And did she think it was Gareth?

Penny Harwick: She did.

Tom Harwick: Yes. Oh, yes.

Erin Moriarty: But no way of proving.

Penny Harwick: No way of proving anything. … Of course, we were worried, but then we also felt like, well, she’s done with him … It’s over. … And it was never over.

And Penny says Amie was thriving—getting a degree to become a licensed therapist.

Amie posted therapy videos on her social media.

AMIE HARWICK (video):  You can seek therapy to address an issue like depression, anxiety, a breakup. You can also seek therapy to be a better you!

But even as Amie focused on helping others, she couldn’t quite shake the shadows from her past. She lost a job as a youth counselor, Penny says, after a prospective employer was anonymously sent nude photos of her. Amie believed Pursehouse was behind it.

Penny Harwick: She was really upset about it. … And she wasn’t sure what she was going to do.

Despite that obstacle, Amie studied for a Ph.D. in human sexuality, earning the title “Dr.” She took a special interest in marginalized groups — sex workers and vulnerable women.

Erin Moriarty: And she doesn’t stop. She just –

Tom Harwick: She bounced right back.

Penny Harwick: No, she didn’t stop. … she would work with these groups of people that she felt were underrepresented and needed help.

Erin Moriarty: What was Dr. Harwick’s reputation?

Emily Sears: Doctor Amie Harwick … had an amazing reputation. I had a lot of mutual friends that had seen her.

Emily Sears, a model who’s graced the cover of Maxim Magazine, first started seeing Dr. Amie Harwick in 2017, in part, to help her overcome anxiety she had around dating and intimacy.

Emily Sears: I felt that she was relatable. … well, I didn’t know just exactly how relatable it was.

Even when she opened up to Amie about an abusive ex-boyfriend who had stalked her, Sears says Amie never told her about her own similar experience.

Emily Sears: And that still is something that I am struggling to process … knowing that I was sitting across from her, and she had been through so much that was similar.

As Amie was helping Sears work through her issues around dating, Amie was taking a chance on a new man in her own life: Drew Carey, comedian and host of “The Price is Right” on CBS.

Drew Carey (2022): She was — obviously really beautiful … she was really smart … She just wanted to help people. Especially women.

“48 Hours” spoke to Carey in 2022. He said that it wasn’t long after meeting Amie at a party that he decided she was the one.

Drew Carey (2022): And I said, “If this is — if this keeps goin’ the way it’s goin’, I’m gonna marry her.”

Erin Moriarty: And what happened?

Penny Harwick: What happened was … he ended up taking her to Paris on New Year’s Eve and proposing to her …And she accepted.

Drew Carey and Amie Harwick
In 2018, Drew Carey introduced Amie Harwick as his fiancee on a special Valentine’s Day episode of the CBS’ “The Price is Right.”

Eddy Chen/CBS


Carey and Amie shared the news on his show soon after.

DREW CAREY | “The Price is Right”: I’d like to introduce you to my brand new, lovely fiancée, Amie. How are you doing, Amie?

But instead of spending the rest of their lives together, later that year, the couple split up.

Erin Moriarty: How did she take the breakup?

Penny Harwick: She was devastated. I mean, she broke it off. … And I think that’s because, well, fame was getting in the way.

That’s because, says Penny, Amie feared that with the added public attention she was getting while on the arm of a celebrity, she could be putting herself in danger.

Penny Harwick: You know who was watching and it made her worry.

“IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO ME, HE DID IT”

Emily Sears: It hit home a lot after Amie passed, in the way that she did … how dangerous it really is for women.

Emily Sears, one of Amie Harwick’s therapy clients, was shaken by the news of her death.

Emily Sears: The reality is we’re not safe, nobody is.

Victor Avila: In dealing with some domestic violence cases, this was a bit different because … the way Gareth Pursehouse acted in this case was more methodical.

When Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila took on the case, he was particularly troubled by evidence that Pursehouse had broken into Amie’s house, hoping to catch her off guard when she arrived home.

Victor Avila: And that’s at the point that we decided to charge not only the murder charge … but also the special circumstance of lying in wait.

Avila along with his co-counsel Deputy District Attorney Catherine Mariano, reviewed surveillance and body camera video, interviews with Amie’s family and friends, and compiled a timeline of the events leading up to the murder.

Catherine Mariano: It became very clear to me that … his obsession drove … his intent to kill her.

Gareth Pursehouse
 “Tonight I felt very scared. … It terrifies me that he’s been obsessed with me for nine years, thinks about me every day,” Amie Harwick wrote in an email to herself, about a month before her murder, after she ran into ex-boyfriend Gareth Pursehouse. 

Facebook


They believe that Pursehouse’s obsession with Amie was ignited when he saw her at an awards show about a month before her murder. It was a chance encounter: Pursehouse working the gig as a photographer; Amie smiling for the cameras, enjoying the limelight. But moments earlier, off camera, witnesses say an angry Pursehouse confronted her. Penny Harwick recalls Amie telling her she hadn’t seen him in almost a decade.

Penny Harwick: He called her a bitch and … he told her she ruined his life … And she just told me how afraid she was, because … he was crying … and causing a huge scene. And she said, “Mom, I went into therapist mode. I just tried to calm him.”

After talking to Pursehouse for almost an hour, Amie left the event very worried.

Erin Moriarty: What was your reaction, Penny, when she was telling you this?

Penny Harwick: Oh, that’s when we talked about security … And … she said she was going to get pepper spray.

Robert Coshland: We decided to start sharing location so I could track where she was.

Her close friend, Robert Coshland, says sharing her phone’s location was one of the few things Amie felt she could do to feel safe. The restraining order against Pursehouse had long expired, and because Pursehouse hadn’t expressly threatened her, Coshland says she didn’t think going to police would help. Still, he says, Amie was very concerned.

Robert Coshland: That’s when she said, look … “if something happens to me, he did it.”

Erin Moriarty: She actually said.

Robert Coshland: She literally said that.

Victor Avila: She’s thinking that he can cause me harm. … and the very next day … he finds her phone on the internet and starts texting her.

Pursehouse sent Amie a series of texts and later left her a tear-filled voicemail:

GARETH PURSEHOUSE (voicemail): I have so much I need to say. Please give me a chance to just say it. … Please (crying) please.

That’s when prosecutors say Amie decided to block his number.

Victor Avila: I believe, up until that point, he was trying to manipulate his way back into her life … the point that she made the decision … to block him … that was her choice, and she had that right to do that.

Prosecutors say Pursehouse started planning to kill Amie on Valentine’s Day.

Erin Moriarty: Was that just a random date?

Catherine Mariano: Absolutely not. … I think he wanted to make a statement by killing her on Valentine’s Day.

On Feb. 14, 2020, Amie went out with a group of friends around 7 p.m. Two hours later, say prosecutors, surveillance cameras from her next-door neighbor’s property were activated.

Victor Avila: And then you get those Ring cameras that show a person that looks just like Gareth Pursehouse with gloves.

Gareth Pursehouse evidence
Gareth Pursehouse’s gloved hand is seen covering Amie Harwick’s neighbor’s security camera. 

Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles


Det. Scott Masterson: When he first comes into view … he covers the camera. And when the camera senses … no more motion, it shuts off and then he hops over the fence.

And into Amie’s yard.

Soon after, around 9 p.m., they believe Pursehouse broke through that French door.

Victor Avila: And that’s consistent with Michael Herman. … He heard something breaking upstairs early in the evening.

Det. Scott Masterson: And I think he just … got into the house, cut himself. I don’t think he even realized he cut himself.

Leaving that blood police later found nearby, DNA testing would confirm it belonged to Pursehouse. And Det. Masterson says where Pursehouse went next was revealed by Amie’s unmade bed.

Det. Scott Masterson: I think he climbed in her bed … He was there waiting for her … for quite a while.

Erin Moriarty: How creepy is that?

Det. Scott Masterson: Crazy creepy.

amieharwick-02.jpg
“I think [Gareth Pursehouse] climbed in her bed,” says Det. Masterson. He calls it, “very creepy.”

Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles


That’s where Masterson believes Amie found him four hours later when she arrived home a little after 1 a.m.

Det. Scott Masterson: She … walks into her bedroom … And I think she just froze in shock and fear. … and the one thing that was on the bed was her phone. So, I think she actually … threw her phone at him and turned and started to run out of the bedroom. … And she’s screaming. … and they’re fighting and they’re wrestling.

Erin Moriarty: How hard did Amie fight for her life?

Det. Scott Masterson: I think she fought with everything she had.

Victor Avila: He had something that appeared to look like … a bite mark on his bicep.

And Pursehouse also had that black eye.

Victor Avila: To us it was indicative of Amie fighting for her life … but she was obviously up against a much bigger, stronger opponent.

Prosecutors believe Pursehouse started choking Amie, and that’s when Michael Herman yelled, they believe, catching Pursehouse by surprise.

Catherine Mariano: And I think that plan was definitely thwarted by the … unbeknownst presence of Michael Herman there. I just don’t believe that he even knew that somebody was home.

Amie Harwick evidence: syringe
Evidence marker 18: A syringe found on Amie Harwick’s third-floor balcony.

Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles


In his panic, they believe Pursehouse dropped that syringe police found on the balcony. It was months before lab tests revealed what it contained: liquid nicotine.

Victor Avila: A toxic poison, that if injected into someone, it would kill them.

Erin Moriarty: Why kill her that way?

Victor Avila: I mean … with that lethal dose of nicotine … people may not know what killed her … It may not be detected.

With his original plan interrupted, prosecutors believe that Pursehouse carried Amie—barely conscious after being strangled—to the third story balcony.

Victor Avila: Lifts her right over the rail and then drops her … to kill her.

Gareth Pursehouse
Gareth Pursehouse is caught on the neighbor’s camera again as he left the scene.

Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles


Gareth Pursehouse is caught on the neighbor’s camera hopping back over the fence.

With their suspect and theory of the crime, the prosecutors were ready for trial. But they were surprised by Pursehouse’s defense: blaming Amie for what happened that night.

THE MURDER TRIAL OF GARETH PURSEHOUSE

In August 2023, more than three years after Amie Harwick’s death, her accused killer Gareth Pursehouse went on trial.

Gareth Pursehouse trial
Gareth Pursehouse with one of his defense attorneys during his murder trial in 2023.

Pool


Catherine Mariano: I almost didn’t recognize him.

Victor Avila: Right.

In their opening statements, prosecutors Victor Avila and Catherine Mariano told jurors why and how they believe Pursehouse ended Amie’s life in the early morning of Feb. 15, 2020.

VICTOR AVILA (in court): Dr. Amie Harwick was murdered by defendant, Gareth Pursehouse, because he was obsessed with her. He strangled her. … lifted her up over the balcony and dropped her to her death.

Tom Harwick: I just pray that Amie was unconscious when she was — when she went over the balcony.

Tom and Penny Harwick
Tom and Penny Harwick

CBS News


Tom and Penny Harwick sat through every second of the trial; even the most graphic moments.

Penny Harwick: I need to know what happened to my daughter. 

Tom Harwick: And we wanted to be there for Amie.

Penny Harwick: Yeah.

Tom Harwick: Through the whole ordeal.

But the Harwicks were not alone. Also in the courtroom: a small army of Amie’s friends – including Rudy Torres.

Rudy Torres: This is the last thing I could ever do for her.

Although fortified by her friends, nothing could prepare the Harwicks to hear — for the first time ever — Gareth Pursehouse’s explanation about what happened the night Amie died. Defense attorney Evan Franzel claims that running into Amie in January 2020 at that awards show had sent Pursehouse into “a deep debilitating depression” and the only way out of it was to talk to Amie on Valentine’s Day 2020.

EVAN FRANZEL (in court): His only intention that night was to speak to her.

Erin Moriarty: What was your reaction to that?

Penny Harwick: Bull***, to put it bluntly. They’re making up stories because they have no defense.


Amie Harwick’s parents respond to killer’s defense in exclusive interview by
48 Hours on
YouTube

And as for that nicotine-filled syringe found at the crime scene, Pursehouse’s defense attorney says it wasn’t for Amie.

EVAN FRANZEL (in court): He brought it intending to kill himself.

Det. Scott Masterson: Why didn’t he? … No, he was on a mission … to kill her.

Victor Avila: He was wearing gloves when he went there, he covered up the cameras. What’s the purpose in doing all that if you’re going to kill yourself there in front of her?

The defense tells the jurors they will hear from an accident reconstructionist who will show that Amie fell on her own. Franzel then shows the jury two images: a screenshot of the reconstruction showing an animated figure hanging from the balcony and an undated photo of Amie posing on top of a balcony railing.

harwick-defense-images.jpg
The images the defense  showed in court:  a screenshot of the reconstruction showing an animated figure hanging from the balcony and an undated photo of Amie Harwick posing on top of a balcony railing.

Gareth Pursehouse defense exhibits


EVAN FRANZEL (in court): You’ll see that she had a certain comfort level with the balcony railing.

Penny Harwick (referencing the photo of Amie shown in court): Beautiful young lady, wasn’t she? She looked glorious.

Erin Moriarty: What was your reaction?

Tom Harwick: Ridiculous.

Penny Harwick: I couldn’t take it seriously. It was just so farfetched to me.

Victor Avila: She’s been strangled, she’s debilitated. So for her to then walk … climb over a 3-foot rail, … do all that … it doesn’t seem reasonable. It seems actually unreasonable.

The defense’s opening concludes with this damning admission:

EVAN FRANZEL (in court): Yes, Gareth Pursehouse was waiting in her home. He broke into her home. Had he not been there she wouldn’t have died that night. That is not in dispute. He set a chain of actions into motion that led to her death, but the evidence will show that he never intended on killing her.

Over the course of 10 days, the prosecution presented its evidence to prove that Pursehouse did intend to kill Amie Harwick. Dozens of witnesses testified for the state, including Masterson – now retired, Coshland and, of course, Amie’s roommate, Michael Herman — the man who heard it all. Herman described for the jury how after that incident on the red carpet, Amie had been concerned about those French doors that Pursehouse would later use to break into her home.

MICHAEL HERMAN (in court): Amie had met with a handyman. I remember, uh, they were over by the glass doors … and Amie was pointing it out and telling him, “We need to secure this.”

Prosecutors also played for the jury a taped jail conversation between Pursehouse and his friends after his arrest.

GARETH PURSEHOUSE: I guess I’m officially a bad boy now, right? I’ve always been kind of (laughs).

Catherine Mariano: Just a couple of weeks after he’s been arrested for murder … he’s laughing with his friends. …  You never hear any moment of concern for Amie during that call.

GARETH PURSEHOUSE: Yeah, so s***’s not great. I’m not getting outta here.

Erin Moriarty: Why was that important?

Victor Avila: I think that’s … one piece of evidence … to show a consciousness of guilt. … So he knows what’s coming. … because the evidence shows what he did. … It proves what he did.

When it was the defense’s turn to present its case and call its expert witness to show how Amie’s fall from the balcony was an accident, the defense suddenly rested without calling a single witness.

Erin Moriarty: Didn’t that hurt the defense?

Victor Avila: I am sure some jurors were wondering what happened … So, I don’t think that helps.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Robin Bernstein-Lev presented a new theory of what happened that night: that Amie may have attacked Pursehouse.

ROBIN BERNSTEIN-LEV (in court): We don’t know who initiated the physical confrontation. … It is just as likely if not likelier … she preemptively attacked Gareth Pursehouse in order to subdue him because she was afraid of him.

Det. Scott Masterson: You see that all the time, don’t you, a 115-pound … lady picking a fight with a 230-pound, 6’4″ man? … It’s just preposterous on its face.

Erin Moriarty: Did that make you mad?

Penny Harwick: Oh … it took all my willpower to stay in that seat, to keep my mouth shut.

During the state’s closing arguments, it’s Amie Harwick who has the last word with Prosecutor Mariano reading from an email Amie wrote to herself hours after her January 2020 encounter with Pursehouse.

CATHERINE MARIANO (reading Amie’s email in court): “Tonight, I felt very scared … Gareth came up behind me and started screaming.”

Catherine Mariano (reading Amie’s email for Moriarty): “I’m pretty nervous that I’m more on his radar now. It terrifies me that he’s obsessed with me for nine years, thinks about me every day… He’s focused on harming me.”

Det. Scott Masterson: That’s the closest we’ve ever had to a victim testifying in their murder. … I thought it was extremely devastating.

Jurors had three choices: murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, or the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Tom Harwick: When it came time for deliberation, I think we all thought it would be rather quick. … Day One went by: nothing.

Penny Harwick: I started getting a little worried and thinking what could they be debating about?

JUSTICE FOR AMIE HARWICK

Catherine Mariano: I felt nervous.

Victor Avila: Yeah.

Catherine Mariano: …because you never know.

As jurors met for a second day to decide Pursehouse’s fate, the waiting for a verdict began to weigh heavily on the prosecution.

Catherine Mariano: It’s incredibly, nerve-wracking. … The wait is the worst part.

And on Amie’s friends and family.

Rudy Torres: And all you hear is just like a symphony of anxious bellies, just grr. So, everybody’s nervous.

But as court was about to adjourn —

Tom Harwick: We were walking out of the courthouse, and Rudy called down and said … “Everybody get up here. There’s a verdict!”

JUDGE GEORGE G. LOMELI: Is it correct that the jury has a verdict? 

JUROR 1: Yes.

JUDGE GEORGE G. LOMELI: You can hand the verdict form over to the bailiff, please.

CLERK: We the jury in the above-entitled action find the defendant, Gareth Pursehouse, guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree.

Gareth Pursehouse – guilty of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of lying in wait.

Erin Moriarty: What did you feel at that moment?

Penny Harwick: A huge relief. Huge relief. I just started crying, and I couldn’t stop.  It was like, whew, finally, after all this time, he’s going to be held accountable for what he did. 

Two months later, Pursehouse was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He didn’t say a word.

Amie’s friend, Robert Coshland.

Amie Harwick and Robert Coshland
Amie Harwick and Robert Coshland

Robert Coshland


Robert Coshland: Justice was rendered and that’s good, but we shouldn’t be here at all. This should never have happened to begin with. … The hole in our lives remains.

Penny Harwick: He’s impacted so many people with his actions, so many people. … He devastated our family.

A family that has grown. After the verdict, Tom gathered Amie’s friends — the ones who have stood by them every step of this journey. 

Tom Harwick: I said, “You’re not our friends, you’re family. You really have (crying) become our family.”

Erin Moriarty: Could you have gotten through this without them?

Tom Harwick: No.

Penny Harwick: I don’t think so.

It’s a testament to the amazing life and community Amie Harwick created.


Amie Harwick’s roommate on what happened the night she died and how he tried to save her by
48 Hours on
YouTube

Michael Herman: She was really happy. She was really happy that she had really gotten her life together. Man, we were all happy…

Michael Herman says he still keeps replaying that night.

Michael Herman: She’s gone and I’m still here … You want a second chance. … I’m still trying to save her.

Erin Moriarty: Michael Herman has a lot of survivor’s guilt.

Penny Harwick: Oh, my goodness. … He did the exact right thing.

Tom Harwick: He made all the right decisions.

Erin Moriarty: Do you feel your sister got justice?

Chris Harwick: I feel — I feel she did.

Amie’s brother, Chris.

Chris Harwick: We wish … that she still could be here to, to continue to help people ’cause that’s what she’s all about.

Rudy Torres: We lost a friend, but so many other people lost a healer.

Emily Sears: I think of Amie every day. … Because she — she helped me so much.

Emily Sears says she’s struggling without Amie’s guidance.

Emily Sears: It’s just so hard to … feel safe when this is the reality of what happened to her and what happens to so many people.

Amie’s loved ones are hoping to change that reality. After her death, a petition was created to rewrite California domestic violence laws, including a statute preventing restraining orders from expiring.

Tom Harwick: And our biggest disappointment was … it lost all its impact when COVID shut everything down.

Prosecutor Mariano acknowledges that there are limits to the legal system.

Catherine Mariano: By the time it gets to our table … we’re in a position to act reactively rather than proactively. … But as a society, I think we can always do better, right?

Victor Avila: Right.

After the trial, Amie’s parents headed home to Pennsylvania — the place where they first became a family with their little girl and watched her grow into the woman admired and now missed by so many.

Tom, Penny and Amie Harwick
Tom, Penny and Amie Harwick

Harwick family


Erin Moriarty: What’s the hardest part?

Penny Harwick: Just the — the absence, the quiet.

Tom Harwick: Just one huge void, one huge void.

Penny Harwick: … and I miss our adventures.

Adventures remembered when they visit Amie’s grave.

PENNY HARWICK (placing flowers on Amie’s grave) I couldn’t get a brighter orange. I know orange was your favorite color, but this is the closest I could get.

TOM HARWICK: We miss you, Amie. Every day, we think of you.

Penny Harwick: We’re not the same people we were before, but we keep trying to be.

Erin Moriarty: Anything you wish you had been able to say to her?

Penny Harwick: Just to tell her one more time that I love her. I know she knew it, but I wanted to be able to say it.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or stalking, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1−800−799−7233.


Produced by Richard Fetzer and Lauren A. White. Michelle Fanucci and Greg Fisher are the development producers. Lauren Turner Dunn is the associate producer. Greg Kaplan and Phil Tangel are the editors. Anthony Batson is the senior broadcast producer, Nancy Kramer is the executive editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer. 



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