It was a night out that Amie Harwick was looking forward to. The sex therapist, 38, had been invited to an adult industry awards show at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles and was excited about taking photos on the red carpet.
“She was gorgeous,” says friend Hernando Chaves, a fellow L.A. sex therapist, who attended the Jan. 16 event with her. “She was so thrilled to be on the red carpet.”
“Initially, he reacted with anger and hostility and he was yelling and she kind of jumped into therapist mode,” Chaves alleges to PEOPLE.
But Harwick, he says, was “taught and trained to deescalate and she had to do her best to deescalate the moment.”
Chaves says after the initial red carpet encounter Pursehouse approached Harwick again at their table after the show.
“It was a very tense, very anxious and very fearful night for her in many respects,” he says, adding, “I’m sure it was one of the most difficult nights of her life.”
One month later, on February 15, Harwick was found mortally wounded after allegedly being thrown by Pursehouse, 41, over the third-story balcony of her Hollywood Hills home. On Wednesday, he was charged with murder and residential burglary “with the special circumstance allegation of lying in wait.”
The software developer and photographer is being held in Los Angeles County Jail with no bail.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE’s free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
Investigators have not commented publicly on a possible motive for the killing, but Harwick had sought two protective orders years earlier against Pursehouse alleging threatening behavior, which two friends characterized as “stalking” to PEOPLE. Harwick was granted a protective order in 2011, which expired 2015.
“She was an outspoken advocate for women,” her best friend Robert Coshland tells PEOPLE. “She would talk about these kinds of statistics about women being injured and killed by boyfriends. She became a statistic of something she actively talked about and lectured and helped people with all the time. It’s just doubly, triply tragic.”
The coroner said Tuesday that Harwick died of blunt force injuries to her head and torso. There was also evidence of manual strangulation.
Pursehouse’s attorney, public defender Patrick Hare, did not return PEOPLE’s call for comment.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.