When Julia and Cassandra crossed paths, their lives changed forever. "Still processing the magnitude of the situation," Julia said. "This is the type of thing you see on TV." Here is their incredible story.
A Missing Piece
It’s not unusual to meet a coworker and become friends. But what happens when you meet a coworker and discover that you’re... related? That was the case when Julia Tinetti and Cassandra Madison first met.
In hindsight, they don't think their story is as strange as you might expect. "Now that I look back on it, this had to happen. We were meant to cross paths like this," Julia gushed. Confused? Let's rewind to the start of this fascinating story when Julia and Cassandra first came into the world.
Cassandra’s Early Life
It makes sense that a young adopted child might one day grow up and wonder about her biological family. Cassandra Madison certainly did. But she started life as a normal adoptee, taken in by a loving parent who was determined to give the young girl a conventional upbringing.
Cassandra was adopted by a wonderful woman named Joan Palmer, who raised her daughter single-handedly in New Haven, Connecticut. This is where the little girl grew up, blissfully unaware of the earliest days of her life… until the day that Joan told her everything.
The Moment of Truth
When she was still quite young, Joan sat her daughter down and told her everything about her past. She had adopted Cassandra from the Dominican Republic, a nation the child knew little about. Naturally, she wanted to learn more about her mysterious background.
After all, if her mother hadn’t given birth to her, who did? Who were her biological parents? Young Cassandra’s mind was racing with these questions and more. But one thing stuck out to her more than anything else. It was a question that many adopted children ask: why had they given her up?
We know that there was another little girl in the picture, though Cassandra hadn’t met her yet. Julia Tinetti was born just 17 months after her older sister. She was swiftly adopted out too and taken in by another American family. And as it turned out, both girls lived much closer than they realized.
Julia was raised in Ansonia, Connecticut - not far from New Haven! Though they spent their early lives ignorant of this fact, Cassandra and Julia were raised mere minutes from one another. But in those days, Julia didn’t mind being in the dark about her biological family. "Not every story has a happy ending," she later insisted.
Now it’s time to delve into the lives of these two adult women, who crossed paths one fateful day In 2013. This was the year that Julia applied for a job at the Russian Lady, an established bar in New Haven. But little did she know, Cassandra Madison had applied for the same position!
Both women were hired at the same time and soon introduced as coworkers at the Russian Lady. The new colleagues went about their jobs and everyday lives, oblivious to the incredible tale that was about to unfold. That is until they noticed some strange similarities.
They Were So Similar
It became clear to Julia, Cassandra, and their coworkers that there were some unusual commonalities between the two women. Sure, their lives were very different. But at first sight, they looked bizarrely similar, and people began paying attention to this fact.
"I looked at both of them, and I was like, 'You two look alike, are you guys, sisters?'" said their coworker Courtney Ritchotte in an interview with WTIC-TV. Not only did they look nearly identical, but they both had big, rambunctious personalities that complemented each other to a tee.
The Same Tattoo
If that wasn't enough, something else stood out from the moment they met. And when they made the connection, it blew both of their minds. Because the first time they put their arms out to shake each other's hands, Julia noticed something on Cassandra's arm that shocked her.
Her co-worker's limb was emblazoned with a tattoo. It was an image she recognized well - the flag of the Dominican Republic. But why was this so important? Well, because Julia had the same flag tattooed on her back! And they soon discovered that the meanings behind their tattoos were identical too.
Both Adopted From the Dominican Republic
Of course, Julia was curious about her coworkers' matching tattoo. Cassandra shrugged and answered simply, "I was adopted from the Dominican Republic." Of course, this was another shock for Julia, and the pair found themselves with another unusual connection.
So Julia told her coworker about her own background, that she was also a Dominican adoptee. The two new acquaintances could barely believe that they shared such a similar backstory. Looking back at these moments now, the truth seems self-evident. So what happened next?
A Bond Formed
Cassandra and Julia did wonder about these strange similarities, but these thoughts were soon overshadowed by the friendship that began to form between them. They had a natural kinship, and soon enough, they weren’t just close-knit coworkers - they were best friends!
Eventually, they were joined at the hip, in part because of the connections they shared through their background and physical likeness. In an interview with Good Morning America, Julia elaborated, saying, "After that moment, we were so tight. We would go out for drinks, for dinner... We started dressing alike."
Questions Began to Arise
But these two best friends quickly gained a lot of attention from the people around them. It seemed obvious to anyone with a pair of eyes that something was up. They looked and acted so similarly - surely they were related in some way? The two were bombarded with questions.
And it was only a matter of time before those questions wormed their way into Cassandra and Julia's brains, becoming impossible to ignore. "For a minute, we genuinely thought we might be sisters," Cassandra said. They knew they had to find out what was going on.
The Documents Stated Otherwise
So they decided to do some research of their own. After all, if they truly were sisters, it would change everything! But they soon found out that their search was only going to make things more complicated and more confusing. How was that possible? Well, the documents didn’t hold what they expected.
They both got a hold of their adoption papers and began comparing them. But the information they had seemed contradictory. According to Julia, "the papers said we were from two different cities [with] different last names." They felt deflated. Perhaps they were not related to each other after all?
Cassandra Left New Haven
Both women felt understandably upset. Being sisters had seemed like the only explanation for their instant bond, but now that was apparently impossible. They realized they had to put those thoughts aside and continue on with their lives and their friendship.
That is until 2015, just two years after they first met. That was the year Cassie Madison met a man and fell in love, and the couple decided to leave New Haven for good and move to Virginia Beach. For now, the two best friends were separated, but their lives soon crossed paths again.
DNA Told the Truth
Despite the geographical distance, Julia and Cassandra’s bond hadn’t changed. They were still as thick as thieves and kept in touch regularly. And despite the time that had passed, the questions they had from the start were still there. And Cassandra was finally about to find some answers.
Because on Christmas day in 2018, Cassandra was given something that could help her to unlock the truth about her family and her past in the Dominican Republic. It was a 23andMe DNA testing kit! Her mother had given it to her, hopeful that she would find the truth she was seeking.
Cassandra’s Birth Parents
The DNA test had more answers than even Cassandra could have expected. "I did not know that you can find a relative, so that was very much a shock," she admitted. With one simple Christmas gift, she was about to uncover truths she had spent her whole life wondering about.
So she took the test and sent out the results. Eventually, they came back, and Cassandra was faced with a terrifying prospect. What if she didn't like what she discovered? As Julia had once said, "Not every story has a happy ending." She opened her file to find that "Adriano Luna and Yulianna Collado were her birth parents."
The name Collado rang a bell in Cassandra’s memory. She knew the name from somewhere - but where? She spent hours mulling over her memories, trying to put a face to the name. Suddenly she remembered something from when she and Julia had first looked at their adoption documents.
Cassandra had been told about Julia’s best friend from childhood, a woman named Molly Sapadin. Molly was another Dominican Republic adoptee just like Julia and Cassandra, but what’s more? She had been adopted on the same day as Julia, and her birth name was Collado.
The First Family Discovery
As far as Cassandra was concerned, this was all too much to be a coincidence. Her first thought was that it hadn’t been Julia who was her sister after all - it had to be Molly! So she quickly got in touch with Julia’s friend, who was equally shocked by the potential revelation.
The two took further DNA tests in order to uncover their family connection. "I don't know why... the adoption records that said her mom was my mom. We don't know," Molly had revealed. But the DNA tests soon gave them answers. They didn't have the same mother, but they were third cousins!
Meeting Her Birth Father
For Cassandra, it was so much to take in. And making that family connection to Molly was just the beginning, as far as she was concerned. She needed to know more. So soon after her discovery, she bought a plane ticket to her birth country and paid a visit to a very special person.
It was in the Dominican Republic that she finally met her biological father, Adriano. "We bonded immediately," Cassandra said about the time she spent at her father's home. "It was like I had known [him] my whole life." But that wasn't the end of her discoveries.
A Tragic Passing
Of course, Cassandra Madison wanted to know about her mother too, and Adriano Luna Collado was able to fill her in. Sadly, the news wasn’t good, and he had to prepare her for the worst. Cassandra suddenly found herself facing a pain that she hadn’t expected.
In 2015 Yulianna Collado had tragically passed away from a sudden heart attack. Cassandra was three years too late, and that fact was what hurt her the most. But that wasn’t all… Cassandra now wanted answers to the biggest question of all, one that had haunted her throughout her life.
Why Did They Do It?
Why did Adriano and Yulianna put her up for adoption? Her father had the answer ready for her, and though it still hurt a little, it also gave her a strange sense of comfort. He and his wife didn’t have the finances to support another child, and adopting her out seemed like the only option for them.
Almost three decades earlier, their family had been hit by tragedy. Cassandra had an older brother, and at the time, he was extremely sick, and it was a sickness that took up much of their time and money. "It was just a difficult time for your mom and I," Adriano told Cassandra.
She Had an Adopted Sister
It had never been an easy option and clearly still upset her father. "I don't like to talk about it. I don't like to think about it," Adriano confessed. But there was another question lingering in Cassandra's mind. Had there been a third sibling? A sister?
Sadly, it took another three years for Cassandra to learn the whole truth from Adriano Collado. But eventually, he admitted it. Yes, Cassandra had a younger sister. And just as in her case, the family couldn’t afford to keep the baby, so she had been adopted out too.
Was It Julia?
Cassandra could hardly believe what she heard. So she did have a sister! After all those years of wondering, the truth came out. And now she had to face the question that had been hanging over her head for nearly 8 years. Was Julia Tinneti her biological sibling?
The thought that her sibling had been right there in front of her all along was almost too much to bear. It was an understandably emotional time for Cassandra Madison. But she knew she had to get to the bottom of the issue, and she knew what had to be done.
Julia Took a Test
Without much of a second thought, Cassandra gathered everything she needed and clambered straight into her car. It was time for a road trip back to New Haven, where her best friend, former co-worker, and potential sibling was waiting. What was going to happen?
Just as she had done with Molly Sapadin, Cassandra needed to convince Julia to take a DNA test. She arrived on her friend's doorstep after eight hours of driving, with the test in hand. Julia recalled the moment with a sense of humor, saying, "She was psycho. She put it in my face and said, 'Spit in this right now.'
They Were Sisters
After waiting seemingly forever, Julia finally got her results back. And on January 27, 2021, she called her friend. The following conversation was one that Cassandra Madison replayed in her head hundreds of times when she thought about it in the months following.
Because Julia finally told her what she had been waiting so long to hear. "Cassie, I am, in fact, your biological sister," Julia blurted. "I had to close the app and reopen it because I wanted to make sure it was real." They were 17-months apart, had 57% shared DNA, and were 100% biological siblings!
Nothing But Love
It was finally set in stone. Cassandra had a father and a sister, and most of the questions that had plagued her in her younger years had been answered. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, and there was something else that people were wondering about. Did she resent her birth parents for everything that had happened?
Both sisters made their feelings clear. Despite the confusion they had felt growing up as adopted kids in America, Julia and Cassandra had only positive feelings for their biological father and mother. "Nobody was given away - just placed up for adoption," they both publicly stated.
Getting To Know Everyone
"It's all good. Everything is really, really good," Cassandra revealed about the time that had passed since the big reveal. She and her sister Julia were making up for lost time. And both kept in close contact with their father Adriano and their other biological siblings.
That's right, they had other brothers and sisters. Seven, to be exact! They frequently Facetimed and talked with their large family, and Adriano himself couldn't be happier. He spoke tearfully of his reunion with both of his daughters, saying, "I prayed for this day to come."
Inspiring Other Adoptees
It's clear that learning about their past has been a wonderful and therapeutic experience for Julia and Cassandra. But it has also helped many other people around the world who learned about their story. According to them, "People who were adopted are now reaching out to us, which is really special."
"That to me, [meant] more than anything," said an emotional Julia. Media attention and followers weren't nearly as important as the knowledge that other adoptees were inspired by their story and were now searching for their birth families. But they wanted to add a caveat to their story.
A Warning for Others
Both Julia and Cassandra felt it was their duty to issue a warning to the adoptees reaching out to them. "Try to remember not every story has a happy ending," they shared. There was no guarantee that seeking out one's biological family would end in the same heartwarming way.
"Be prepared," Cassandra continued. "They may have closed that chapter of their life." For some people, searching for their past could possibly result in more pain and confusion. And in Julia's opinion? "I'd say be prepared for anything," she said. Even with the twists and turns of their journey, they had been lucky.
What The Documents Had Said
Looking back on their incredible story, one last question still remains. Seven years earlier, these two women had looked for answers by consulting their adoption records. According to these papers, there was no way they were related. So what went wrong?
Though there are no concrete answers, people have their opinions. Their cousin Molly Sapadin believes it was just "a very big mistake" on the part of their adoption agency. On the other hand, Cassandra thinks their adoption lawyer played a more insidious part. "You can't tell me… she didn't know something," she said.
It Was Meant To Be
"Now that I look back on it, this had to happen…" is how Julia sees it. "We were meant to cross paths like this." When you think of all the different paths their lives could have taken, it certainly seems like fate brought them to the Russian Lady bar all those years ago.
They now have a lifelong bond, with Julia joking that she “will forever be [Cassandra's] annoying little sister." But where do they go from here? They plan to travel to the Dominican Republic together, to get to know their family and their country a little better. And there’s still a lot more ahead of them.
A Lesson Learned
But for now, Cassandra Madison seems more than happy enjoying her time with her sister. After decades of wondering and searching, her curiosity has changed the lives of her entire family - both biological and adopted. And there’s a lot to be learned from her journey.
After all, it was a deep inner determination that drove her to find the truth. "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." One thing is clear - if you really, truly want something, nothing can stop you from reaching it eventually.