"Still processing the magnitude of the situation," Julia Tinetti confessed. "This is the type of thing you see on TV." Here is Julia's incredible story of reuniting with her long-lost sister in the oddest of places.
A Chance Meeting
Imagine starting your first day of work and meeting a coworker who is just like you! It usually leads to instant friendship, but for Julia Tinetti and Cassandra Madison, it led to so much more.
For some, their story might seem too crazy of a coincidence to be true. But for them, it was no coincidence at all. "Now that I look back on it, this had to happen," Julia insisted. "We were meant to cross paths like this." Let's dive into their unbelievable story.
Life of a Young Adoptee
Cassandra Madison grew up happy and healthy, as many adopted children in America do. She spent her early years seemingly without a care in the suburbs of New Haven, Connecticut. But as she got older, she learned more about her earlier life, and it affected her deeply.
As a baby, Cassandra was brought to America and adopted by her mother, Joan Palmer. Joan was a single mother, but she raised her daughter in a loving and open environment. In fact, she was so open that as soon as Cassandra was old enough, she told her the truth about her parentage.
Learning the Truth
She was still just a child, but Cassandra’s mother felt it was only right for her daughter to know more about where she came from. The little girl had been born in the Dominican Republic, a far cry from the picturesque New England town she grew up in.
Naturally, young Cassandra was captivated by this news. Her mind was buzzing with confusion and questions about her early life. Who were her birth parents? And more importantly, why wasn’t she with them? It was a question that stuck with her for years to come.
Where is Julia?
And what about the second woman in this story? Well, Julia Tinetti’s early life was very similar to her sisters. She was younger than Cassandra, born 17 months after. And just like her, she was given up for adoption and whisked away to America.
As it turned out, she was adopted by an American family who lived in Ansonia, Connecticut. Not only did she grow up in the same state as her older sister, but the two girls stayed just a 20-minute drive from one another. But unlike Cassandra, Julia was less fixated on her past. "Not every story has a happy ending," she explained.
The Sisters Cross Paths
Let’s fast forward to 2013, where the two little girls were now young adults. As luck would have it, both women had applied for a bar staff position at the New Haven bar The Russian Lady. Little did they know that the job would lead to so much more.
They both got the position and soon started their first day of training as coworkers at The Russian Lady. All the new employees were introduced to each other, and everything seemed normal enough. That is until Cassandra and Julia crossed paths with one another.
The Similarities Were Striking
Upon meeting each other, both Cassandra, Julia, and the staff around them noticed something strange was going on. They had different surnames, led totally different lives, and had never met each other before. And yet, no one could ignore that the two women looked eerily similar.
According to their coworker Courtney Ritchotte, the resemblance was immediately noticeable. "I looked at both of them, and I was like, 'You two look alike, are you guys, sisters?'" she shared in an interview with WTIC-TV. They even had similar personalities! Was it really just a coincidence?
What’s That on Your Arm?
Rambunctious personalities and shockingly similar appearances aside, there was another thing they had in common. And this one was impossible to shrug off. Julia happened to notice a marking on her new co-worker's arm as they were shaking hands - it was a very recognizable tattoo.
Why was it so recognizable? Because on Cassandra’s arm was an image of the flag of the Dominican Republic. It was nearly identical to the tattoo on Julia’s own back! The young woman could barely believe what she was seeing. She had to press her coworker for answers.
Two Dominican Adoptees
"I was adopted from the Dominican Republic," was the straightforward answer Cassandra gave her shocked colleague. So not only did they have the same tattoo, but their shared ink held the exact same meaning. And once Julia shared this with Cassandra, they were both intrigued.
They soon began discussing their early adoption from the Dominican Republic and their childhoods in Connecticut. No one could have expected such an unusual meeting in the New Haven bar. And, of course, the situation only became stranger in the years to come.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! For now, Cassandra and Julia knew that the circumstances around their meeting were bizarre. But instead of asking too many questions, the pair simply began spending more time together. Eventually, they were inseparable.
The tight-knit twosome were immediate friends, invigorated by how much they shared with each other. "After that moment, we were so tight. We would go out for drinks, for dinner... We started dressing alike," Julia told Good Morning America. But this only raised more questions...
Are You Two Related?
Because the two women spent so much time together, it was hard for people not to notice and point out the similarities. They looked so alike, both had big personalities, and the tattoo? Well, it all seemed too strange. Everyone wanted to know: were they related or not?
Soon Cassandra and Julia couldn't avoid it either. They both began to wonder if there was any truth behind other people's suspicions. And they had to get to the bottom of it. According to Cassandra, "for a minute, we genuinely thought we might be sisters."
Not According to the Documents
Julia and Cassandra were keen to find answers. So they took action and began looking further into their backgrounds - in particular, their formal adoptions. But what they found wasn’t at all what they were expecting, and only served to deepen their confusion.
That's because of the details found within their respective adoption papers. "The papers said we were from two different cities [with] different last names," Julia said. According to official documents, chances that Julia and Cassandra were related were highly unlikely. And if they were, they now had no idea how to confirm it.
Moving on With Life
It was all very disheartening. Both Julia and Cassandra had felt sure they had a connection beyond just friendship. But for now, they had to push those thoughts aside. There was nothing else to do except keep living life as normal and treasure the bond that had formed between them.
And by 2015, it seemed they had truly put their questioning behind them, as Cassandra met the man of her dreams and officially left New Haven. The couple packed up their belongings and moved to Virginia Beach, an 8-hour drive away. Life was moving on. For now, at least.
A Christmas Test
Julia and Cassandra’s bond remained strong, and they still managed to see each other now and then. And despite years passing, neither had forgotten about the adoption papers and the fact that there was information about their past they were clearly missing.
One day Cassandra’s mother, Joan, had an idea. She also wanted her daughter to discover the truth about her background. So on the 25th of December, 2018, she gave her daughter a gift that was going to answer many of her questions: a 23andMe DNA testing kit.
Her Biological Parents
Cassandra was excited to learn more about her background but soon realized there was far more to a DNA test than she knew. "I did not know that you can find a relative, so that was very much a shock," she said. If she found the identities of her biological parents, what would that mean? There was only one way to find out.
After a few weeks of waiting, the results came in. With a deep breath and a churning stomach, Cassandra read through everything. And on that piece of paper was the answer to a question she had been asking since she was a little girl - her parents' names: Adriano Luna and Yulianna Collado.
The Name Was Familiar
It was undoubtedly a huge moment for Cassandra, even if she couldn’t put a face to the names. But there was something else that stuck out to her - her mother’s surname. Collado, Collado... she had heard of it before, but where? Eventually, it came to her.
When she and Julia had talked about being adopted from the Dominican Republic, Julia had mentioned her childhood best friend. The girl's legal name was Molly Sapadin, and she and Julia had both been adopted from the DR on the very same day. But according to Julia, her birth name had been… Collado!
A Long-Lost Relation
Maybe she had a sister after all, even if it wasn’t the person Cassandra had expected. There was only one thing to do. She had to make contact with Molly Sapadin to try and get to the bottom of the shared surname. She eventually got in touch with Molly, who was also intrigued.
They looked into their adoption records, and both took another DNA test, but the results were contradictory. "I don't know why... the adoption records that said her mom was my mom. We don't know," Molly said. But DNA tests don't lie, and the results came in soon after. They were actually third cousins!
The First Family Reunion
Even though she didn’t have a sister (yet), Cassandra was overjoyed that she had finally made a connection with her biological family. It was all she needed to push her on to the next step in her journey. And soon enough she had bought a plane ticket to the Dominican Republic.
It wasn't a holiday she had planned, but something much more meaningful - a family reunion. She arrived on the doorstep of her biological father, Adriano Luna's, home. "We bonded immediately," Cassandra exclaimed. "It was like I had known [him] my whole life."
Some Sad News
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for Cassandra as she learned about her family. When she finally asked about her mother, what Adriano Luna Collado told her next was heartbreaking. And so, during the trip of her dreams, she had to face an unexpected nightmare. What'd he say?
Cassandra’s biological mother, Yulianna Collado, had passed away only three years before her arrival, back in 2015. The grieving young woman couldn’t shake the feeling that she had come too late. But while she grappled with this tragic news, she knew she had to ask the most important question of all.
“It Was Just a Difficult Time”
Why did they do it? Why did her parents give up for adoption all those years ago? As it turned out, her father had been waiting for her to ask this question. He told her exactly what had happened: Adriano and Yulianna simply couldn’t afford to look after another child.
"It was just a difficult time for your mom and I," he told her. Their eldest child, Cassandra's brother, had come down with a terrible illness. Both parents had to give up most of their time and money to look after him, and when Yulianna became pregnant, the couple felt that they had no other option.
The Truth Comes Out
"I don't like to talk about it. I don't like to think about it," Adriano told his daughter. Cassandra realized even though her adoption had caused a lot of pain for herself and her adopted parents, it had been for the best. Now she had only one more question to ask.
Was there a second daughter? Unfortunately, Adriano refused to answer that question at first. It took three long years before she finally got the truth out of him. There had indeed been another child, born not long after Cassandra. And she was also put up for adoption. Who was she?
Where Was She?
So it was true: Cassandra Madison had a younger sister out in the world somewhere. And she had a nagging feeling that “somewhere” was actually New Haven, Connecticut - that the sister she was searching for had been there all along. She had a feeling it was Julia.
Though she suspected that Julia Tinetti was indeed her biological sister, it was also a painful thought to have. Had her sibling really been right by her side for all those years, just with no way to prove it? She knew she had to find out the truth, both for her sake and for Julia’s.
There was only one thing standing in her way now… the eight-hour drive back to New Haven. There her best friend was waiting, with no idea of what was about to take place. Cassandra got into her car and drove back to her hometown without stopping. She knew exactly what had to happen.
She arrived at Julia Tinetti's house with a brand new DNA test in hand. It was the only way for them to find out the truth, once and for all. Julia looked back on the moment Cassandra appeared on her doorstep, saying jokingly, "She was psycho. She put it in my face and said, 'Spit in this right now.'"
Sisters at Last
On January 27, 2021, the results of Julia’s DNA test came back. And the information it held was about to change her life forever. After reading it, everything was a blur. She rushed to call her best friend, her former coworker, and apparently.... her biological sibling.
"Cassie, I am, in fact, your biological sister," Julia raced to tell her. "I had to close the app and reopen it because I wanted to make sure it was real." Their DNA was a 57% match! And just like that, the last piece of Cassandra's puzzle finally fell into place.
No Bad Blood
After the bombshell news was revealed, both Julia and Cassandra had a lot to unpack. Everything was laid out in front of them: Their sister, their parents, and the reason they were given up as babies. Which begs the question, how did they feel about their biological parents now that they knew the truth?
"Nobody was given away - just placed up for adoption," both women insisted. There were no hard feelings toward Adriano and Yulianna, only love and gratitude. Both Cassandra and Julia had lived good lives in America, and now they had the joy of sharing two families.
Meeting the Whole Family
Overall the feelings that came from all of this knowledge were overwhelmingly positive. "It's all good. Everything is really, really good," Cassandra said of the following years. She and Julia were closer than ever and regularly kept in touch with their family in the Dominican Republic.
That family included not just their father Adriano but their seven other siblings! Cassandra and Julia made an effort to talk to all of them on Facetime as often as possible. And their father, Adriano? It's everything he could have hoped for. "I prayed for this day to come," he gushed.
A Communal Impact
But it’s not just their family who had been positively affected by the sisters’ discovery. As Julia and Cassandra shared their story with the media, more and more adoptees began reaching out to the pair to share their own stories of searching and reconnecting with their biological family.
"People who were adopted are now reaching out to us, which is really special," Julia said. "That to me, [meant] more than anything." The idea that they had inspired other people in similar situations meant a great deal to both women. But according to them, there was also a catch.
Happiness Not Guaranteed
In Julia and Cassandra's eyes, adoptees reconnecting with their biological family (parents in particular) was more complicated than their particular story might suggest. "Try to remember not every story has a happy ending," they urged. Not everyone's journey would be as positive as theirs.
"I'd say be prepared for anything," Julia recommended to the people following their story. Cassandra agreed, adding that it's possible biological families "may have closed that chapter of their life." Reconnecting with families can cause trauma, and they wanted people to be aware of the risks.
What Went Wrong?
Earlier we mentioned that Cassandra and Julia had found the answers to all of their questions. But that wasn’t quite true. One of the main reasons it took so long for the two women to discover their shared genetics was because both of their adoption records refuted the fact that they were sisters. How could this be?
Both Cassandra and her cousin Molly Sapadin have speculated on the possibilities, though they don't know for sure. In Molly's opinion, the agency simply made "a very big mistake" when processing their adoptions. But Cassandra had a darker theory that involved their adoption lawyer. "You can't tell me… she didn't know something," she said.
Fate or Coincidence?
It may had taken years to confirm their relationship, but the journey that sisters Julia and Cassandra embarked on was an amazing one nonetheless. And while some might say their 2013 meeting at the Russian Lady was just a coincidence, Julia disagrees.
"Now that I look back on it, this had to happen…" she insisted. "We were meant to cross paths like this." And now they have the rest of their lives to share with one another. "I will forever be [Cassandra's] annoying little sister," Julia joked. From future trips to the DR to quality time together, their story's just getting started.
“I Was Going to Die Trying”
Looking back on the years since she first met her sister, Cassandra Madison found a sense of contentment and belonging that she wasn’t sure she’d ever find. Since she was a little girl, she had dreamed about meeting that first family she was separated from. And now she has the rest of her life to spend with them.
But deep down, she knew she would find her parents and siblings one day. "For me, it's always been, 'I'm going to find these people if it's the last thing I do," she said. "I was going to die trying." And for anyone seeking truth in their life? Cassandra's determination is a beautiful inspiration.