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Months after CT mother goes missing during hike in Japan, family still holding out for a ‘miracle’

Kirk Murad with a wedding photograph of his wife of 33 years, Patricia “Pattie” Wu-Murad, who has been missing since April 10th in Japan.
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
Kirk Murad with a wedding photograph of his wife of 33 years, Patricia “Pattie” Wu-Murad, who disappeared April 10th while hiking in Japan. “There's nothing. That's the frustrating part,” Murad said. “There's no article of clothing that says she fell here. There's no witness that says ‘I saw her there.’ There's no blood that says she was a victim of a crime.”

The family of a Connecticut woman gone missing in Japan has called off the search, but they’re not giving up hope.

Patricia Wu-Murad of Storrs was hiking when she disappeared in April.

Her daughter, Murphy, announced in early June that search efforts would be suspended – more than two months after her disappearance.

Wu-Murad, called Pattie by her family, was reported missing on April 10. She had been hiking the Kohechi route of the Kumano Kodo trail in the mountains of Honshu, Japan’s main island.

An avid hiker and traveler, Wu-Murad has previously gone on hiking excursions in Spain, France, Jordan and Egypt.

Wu-Murad took hiking trips abroad so frequently that family members didn’t think twice when she was inaccessible for a few days, said her husband, Kirk Murad.

“Pattie is an expert at having these trips. She's gone away for seven out of the last 14 months,” Murad said. “She had done this so often that I got kind of complacent. I wasn't tracking where she was every day anymore.”

After receiving a call from the U.S. Consulate on April 13, Murad, his daughter and son traveled to Japan. The family spent days with trail guides walking the Miura-toge Pass, the section of the route Wu-Murad was supposed to hike on the day she disappeared.

The family was frustrated by local police officials and their lack of urgency.

“When we arrived, they [the police] were very helpful,” Murad said. “But they didn't say, ‘This is what we're going to do. This is how we operate.’ They said, ‘What do you need from us?’”

The family set up a GoFundMe page, asking for donations to fund a private search. They also provided updates on social media to help spread awareness.

With the aid of donations and volunteers, they coordinated search efforts with a Japanese search and rescue organization called Mountain Works. However, even after what was described to Murad as “the largest and longest search ever in Japan for an individual,” no clues as to Wu-Murad’s whereabouts have been found.

“There's nothing. That's the frustrating part,” Murad said. “There's no article of clothing that says she fell here. There's no witness that says ‘I saw her there.’ There's no blood that says she was a victim of a crime.”

Despite U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal connecting the family to the State Department, FBI and Japanese government officials, the family struggled to begin the search.

“I'm an educator, my daughter is a basketball coach [and] my son is in computer networking we're not experts in search and rescue. But we very quickly became experts,” Murad said.

Murad advises people traveling solo abroad to allow trusted individuals access to their location other than through their cell phone.

“We wish that she had an [bluetooth location-tracking] air tag because we could have found her that way. I think that's something everybody should have,” Murad said.

Wu-Murad’s phone had lost battery by the time the family was notified of her disappearance, so they were unable to access her location – or any data through her eSim card due to Japan’s strict privacy laws on telecommunications.

As he’s still searching for his wife, Murad wants to help others who may encounter trouble while traveling abroad. Murad says the family wants to create a standard procedure for the authorities to reference when an individual goes missing in another country – a plan to standardize search efforts so families don’t have to organize their own rescue teams.

Despite the lack of answers, Murad expressed gratitude for the support his family has received.

“There are so many wonderful people on this planet. This kind of restored our faith in humanity,” Murad said. “People that we didn't even know volunteered their time. They bring us food. They drive us around. They didn't ask for anything. We tried to compensate them, [but] they wouldn't take any money.”

Murad said that despite the search being suspended, the family continues to stay in contact with the authorities. They are pushing officials to help them retrieve data from Wu-Murad’s phone.

“We know it will take an absolute miracle to find her alive at this point. But that's what I'm holding on to,” Murad said. “This is not something I'm going to give up on. We want to find the answers. We want to find her.”

Kelsey Goldbach is a Digital Media Intern with Connecticut Public.

She is a fourth year student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Journalism at the University of Southern California. Recently, Kelsey was a part of the Dow Jones News Fund Digital Intern Class of 2023. She is a Connecticut native and spends her summers in Waterbury.

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