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Restaurant co-workers realize they're not just friends — they're sisters

A pair of former restaurant co-workers who became great friends learned eight years later that they are actually biological sisters.
/ Source: TODAY

Cassandra Madison and Julia Tinetti became such good friends so quickly when they first met as co-workers at a bar in Connecticut that they used to joke they were sisters.

Eight years after that first meeting, they found out they really are sisters.

National Sibling Day on Saturday was one to cherish for Madison, 32, and Tinetti, 31, after a revelatory year of twists and turns that led to them discovering they are biological sisters who were both adopted from the Dominican Republic on the same day.

"It's really exciting," Tinetti said on TODAY Friday. "I mean, to be honest with you, we really thought this could be a possibility. But our relationship hasn't changed. We don't treat each other any different."

"Both of us feel like someone's gonna like, come knock on our door and be like, 'Just kidding!'" Madison said.

Their relationship first began in 2013 when Madison was working as a waitress and Tinetti as a hostess at the Russian Lady Bar in New Haven.

Julia Tinetti (left) and Cassandra Madison went from being co-workers and good friends to learning they are biological sisters. Courtesy Julia Tinetti

"It was like natural," Tinetti said. "It wasn't awkward. We hit it off literally right away."

Madison has the Dominican flag tattooed on her arm, which Tinetti noticed before noting that she has the Dominican flag tattooed on her back.

"I'm adopted from there and she's like, 'What? Me too!' And I was like, 'That's so cool,''' Madison said.

They also bore a strong physical resemblance with long, dark hair and brown eyes. The "sisters" joke got to the point where they actually compared their adoption papers, but the surnames on them didn't match and the documents said the two were born in different cities in the Dominican Republic.

"It would have been crazy if it did end up being that it matched up, but we were like, 'All right, well that was cool while it lasted," Tinetti said.

The two sisters were both adopted from the Dominican Republic by different families on the same day. Courtesy Julia Tinetti

However, Madison wanted to know more about her biological family, so her adopted mother bought her a 23andMe DNA genetic testing kit in 2018. The test showed her distant relatives, including a cousin in Connecticut who ultimately linked her up with her biological family, the majority of whom still live in the Dominican Republic.

Madison flew to the island nation in the Caribbean in 2019 and reunited with her father, Adriano Luna Collado, and her seven siblings, who informed her that her birth mother had died of a heart attack in 2015.

Meanwhile, Tinetti had moved from Connecticut to Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 2015, but had stayed in touch with Madison. Tinetti had never pursued information about her biological family.

That all changed last year when Tinetti's childhood best friend, Molly Sapadin, started connecting all the dots between them. Sapadin, who is also friends with Madison, was also adopted from the Dominican Republic and grew up in Connecticut.

The women formed a quick bond over their heritage after realizing they both had tattoos of the Dominican flag. Courtesy Julia Tinetti

She noticed something curious after seeing Facebook posts of Madison reuniting with her family in the Dominican Republic.

"I saw that Cassandra was connected with the biological family that I thought I was connected with, because I had her names of her family on my paperwork," Sapadin said on TODAY.

Sapadin thought she might be Madison's sister and took a DNA test in December 2020. It turned out instead that her best friend since childhood was actually her cousin.

Madison and Tinetti then began to suspect there was a mix-up and their adoption paperwork had accidentally been switched because they were both adopted on the same day. Madison asked her birth father earlier this year if he had given up another girl for adoption, and he said yes.

Madison reunited with her biological father, Adriano Luna Collado, in the Dominican Republic. Courtesy Julia Tinetti

"I hopped in my car and drove to Julia with a 23andMe kit in my car from Connecticut to Virginia and shoved it in her face and told her she had to do it," Madison said.

Tinetti's heart was pounding when she got the results about two weeks later.

"I opened it, and I'm like, ' Wait, let me close it out and like bring it back up to make sure this is real,'" she said. "And then I'm like texting Cassie, I'm calling her, and I'm like, 'You need to call me, results are in, results are in!'

"Finally she calls me back, and I said, 'Cassie, I am in fact your biological sister.'"

"It was awesome," Madison said.

Madison learned from her father that her older brother was very sick when he was born and the family had financial issues, so he gave the girls up for adoption. Neither of the women are angry about the decision.

Their great friendship and strong physical resemblance led the women to check to see if they were actually related. Courtesy Julia Tinetti

"My father just cried a lot, and he just kept apologizing," Madison said.

"You can't be mad at somebody for wanting to give their child the best life," Tinetti said. "And now the fact that we can connect with them, it's very, very special for us."

Tinetti has since chatted with her father and siblings on FaceTime.

"It's very overwhelming because there's a lot of them," Tinetti said. "Everybody's excited so everyone's like, 'I want to see her, I want to talk to her.'"

The story also had one final twist for Sapadin.

The woman who got the ball rolling when she found out Madison was her cousin has now also found out that she has a long-lost biological sister of her own, a twin living just 40 minutes away from her.

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