Slain therapist Amie Harwick was strangled before fall from balcony, coroner says
LOS ANGELES -- Amie Harwick, the prominent family and marriage therapist slain at her Hollywood Hills residence, was strangled before falling to her death from a balcony, the Los Angeles County coroner's office said Thursday.
Prosecutors have charged a former boyfriend, Gareth Pursehouse, with murder in the 38-year-old's death last Saturday.
An autopsy determined that the primary cause of death was blunt force injuries to Harwick's head and torso from the fall off the third-floor balcony, but that a secondary cause was "manual strangulation," according to a coroner's spokeswoman.
LAPD investigators have been tight-lipped about what they believe occurred inside Harwick's home before her death, but a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors this week suggested detectives believe Pursehouse broke in and then spent more than an hour at Harwick's residence before killing her.
Police were summoned to the home at 1:16 a.m. Saturday by a report of a woman screaming. When they arrived, they found Harwick unconscious and mortally wounded outside.
In the complaint filed in Superior Court on Wednesday, LAPD Detective Luis Carranza alleged that Pursehouse committed first-degree burglary of the residence occupied by Harwick and her roommate on Friday -- Valentine's Day -- and murdered her, "by means of lying in wait," on Saturday.
"Those dates give an estimate of when those crimes occurred," Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila said following an initial court hearing for Pursehouse. The prosecutor added that the crimes were "close in time."
Pursehouse faces a possible death sentence if convicted, and he is being held without bail. His attorney, Patrick Hare, of the public defender's office, did not return a message seeking comment.
Pursehouse, a 41-year-old photographer from Playa del Rey, and Harwick had lived together in Sherman Oaks in the early 2010s, but broke up amid allegations by her of violence, according to records from restraining order requests she sought in 2011 and 2012.