Former colleagues to sisters — sounds like something out of a movie, right? Well that’s exactly what happened to Julia Tinetti, 31, and Cassandra Madison, 32, after a surprise DNA test confirmed it.
While people would often comment on how similar the two looked alike, the pair had no idea what news they were in for. Tinetti and Madison met while working at The Russian Lady bar in New Haven, Connecticut.
They quickly clicked — as they came to find they were both adopted, had Dominican Flag tattoos (the country where they were adopted from), and looked similar.
“We started hanging out,” Tinetti told Good Morning America. “We would go out for drinks, for dinner. We started dressing alike.”
“I thought she was cool,” Madison agreed. “We just kind of hit it off right away. It was very natural.” But despite the striking similarities, there was no true evidence the women were related.
Their birth certificates did not offer much.
Both women were adopted shortly after their birth. Tinetti, born in 1989, and Madison, born in 1988, were from two different cities, with different birth mothers listed, and they had different last names. Madison was confident there was some sort of family relationship, but they had no proof….yet.
Madison moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 2015, but the two remained in touch through Facebook. And in 2018, Madison’s adoptive mother gave her a 23andMe kit for Christmas. Using the information she received from the kit, Madison was able to track down her birth father, Adriano Luna Collado, who still lived in the Dominican Republic. Her birth mother, Yulianna Collado, died in 2015 from a heart attack.
In 2018, she traveled to meet him and her siblings for the first time.
“There is just an enormous amount of people standing there with T-shirts with my face on them,” she told Fox 61. “It was the most emotional thing I think I’ve ever been through. My father and I just embraced each other, and he would not let me go, and I would not let him go.”
But it would take Tinetti’s friend, Molly Sapadin, 31, to put the pieces together.
Sapadin was also adopted after birth from the Dominican Republic in 1990. Her adoptive mother was best friends with Tinetti’s, and together the two women grew up in Connecticut. Believing the two could be half-sisters, Sapadin wanted to compare her adoption papers to Tinetti’s.
The papers showed they were adopted on the same day in close proximity and they had the same last name and same birth mother listed on both of their birth certificates.
Sapadin took a DNA test on January 1, 2021, which revealed that she wasn’t Tinetti’s sister but she was her distant cousin.
All three women now believe there was some sort of mix-up on the paperwork BUT Sapadin does have a twin somewhere.
“I’m so excited to be a part of a huge family I didn’t know about,” she told Good Morning America.
Tinetti later learned that her father gave up Madison for adoption because they had a sick child at home and couldn’t afford to take on another.
“On top of the DR being a very poor country, they couldn’t take care of us,” Tinetti explained. “I was [born] 17 months later and they weren’t ready.”
But Madison had her own way of finding out what really happened. And in 2021, she asked her father if there was a chance there was another baby who could be her sibling.
“He said, ‘It was just a difficult time for your mom and I. So, I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t like to think about it,'” she remembered. But eventually, he admitted they had put up another baby for adoption — which is exactly what led Madison to push Tinetti to get herself a 23andMe test.
And on January 27, the two women learned the truth.
In a post from Madison’s Facebook page, she shared the results: Tinetti was not just her best friend, she was her biological sister.
“WE ARE SISTERS!” she wrote on January 28. “Same mom, same dad! Just two girls who happen to work together find out they’re sisters.”
Tinetti has yet to visit her biological family in person. “I’ve actually met them over FaceTime,” she told Fox 61. “It’s definitely a great moment. I definitely want to go visit them now.”
At first, she was nervous to make contact. “You don’t know what your DNA is going to bring up,” she shared.
Out of their seven brothers and sisters, Tinetti and Madison were the only ones who were adopted, according to Good Morning America. In addition, they have a myriad of nieces and nephews still living in the Dominican Republic.
Tinetti said she was “still processing the magnitude of the situation.”
“This is the type of thing you see on TV,” Tinetti shared. “Finding my biological family just wasn’t a thing for me. I grew up with a great family, so I just kind of left it to what it was.”
The two sisters said other adoptees have reached out to them after hearing their story, but advise those looking for answers to proceed with caution.
“Not every story has a happy ending. … I’d say be prepared for anything,” she warned. “They may not want to meet you and may have closed that chapter of their life,” Madison agreed. “For me, it’s always been, ‘I’m going to find these people if it’s the last thing I do.’ I was going to die trying.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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