Things That Matter

UPDATE: Eighth American Dies In The Dominican Republic And Families Are Pressuring The US Government To Demand Answers

Leyla Cox, 55, will be the second American tourist whose body was found in their hotel room in just three days. Joseph E. Allen III, a New Jersey tourist, was found dead on June 13 after feeling sick the night before. Leyla Cox was found on June 10 in Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana.

A forensic report obtained by the hotel reveals that Cox died of a heart attack. Officials say the country is “no less safe than it was before,” according to a CNN report.

Leyla Cox’s family is reluctant to accept the country’s autopsy report.

@OstapiukJ / Twitter

Cox was visiting the Dominican Republic to celebrate her birthday and planned to be back in New York within a week. Her son, William Cox, told ABC 7 News that, “it’s been a non-stop nightmare ever since I got that phone call.”

Dominican officials are calling the deaths isolated events.

@rodrigmarchena / Twitter

“In the last five years, over 30 million tourists have visited the Dominican Republic, but this is the first time the international media report such an alarming situation,” Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia responded. “These are isolated incidents and the Dominican Republic is a safe destination.”

But people don’t want to hear the same lines. They want answers.

@diegoarisot / Twitter

“These tweets against the negative reports from The New York Times and FOX News serve nothing,” reads the tweet. “Clarify the deaths and let the world know, starting with your said means.”

Authorities continue to state the same stances–these are isolated incidents. Americans are growing more and more frustrated with the lack of local investigations into the matter.

The family of Joseph E. Allen III, found in his hotel room on June 13th, won’t stop searching for answers.

@essence / Twitter

Joe’s family has been told that Joe started feeling sick on Wednesday night. He felt like he had a fever, and decided to skip going out with his friends to take a cold shower and rest. By Thursday morning, his friends were worried that he wasn’t answering his hotel phone. They asked the hotel staff to let them into his room, where his body was found in rigor mortis.

Joe’s only son arrived a couple of hours later for a scheduled celebration of Father’s Day.

@ArubaRuthnell / Twitter

He didn’t find out his dad had passed until after he landed. Joe’s brother, Jason, told Essence that once Joe’s son “got there that they were performing an autopsy on my brother without any consent and [my nephew] was told that it was the law of the land.”

The family has penned New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez to demand justice for Joe.

@SenatorMenendez / Twitter

“My family and I are afraid that my brother was a victim of a wrongful death,” Jason wrote. “Being aware of the recent number of mysterious deaths occurring in the Dominican Republic, we immediately attempted to contact the U.S. Embassy…for answers and seeking any help they could offer in getting an investigation started with an autopsy done back in the United States.”

On May 30, a couple was found dead in their hotel room.

@JesusComing2033 / Twitter

Edward Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49, were found in their rooms at the Bahia Principe La Romana Resort. They both had internal bleeding and damage to their pancreases. Holmes was reported by authorities to have an enlarged heart and cirrhosis of the liver–significant signs of a pre-existing, dangerous condition.

The New York Post reports that they collapsed and died after drinking from the minibar.

In April, a California man reportedly died after drinking from his hotel minibar.

Robert Wallace, 67, died in his Hard Rock Hotel room. After having scotch from the minibar, he started experiencing blood in his urine and stool immediately afterward.

The FBI is now investigating the cause of these deaths–suspected to be poisoning.

@nypost / Twitter

Many of the official reports of death have not been released to the public just yet, and families are feeling frustrated. Not a single toxicology report, which would indicate poisoning, has been released.

There are no travel advisories for Americans regarding the Dominican Republic just yet.

@jayracruzz / Twitter

Though many Americans are taking to Twitter to announce their plan to avoid the DR until more information is released. Others are making sure that the world knows: “Dominican Republic is not bad.”

READ: This Dominican Republic Hotel Just Claimed Its 6th Victim And Experts Think The Mini Bar Is To Blame

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These Long-Time Best Friends Just Found Out They’re Biological Sisters

Things That Matter

These Long-Time Best Friends Just Found Out They’re Biological Sisters

Photo via Cassandra Raquel Madison/Facebook

We’ve all had those friends that are so close to us that they feel like they’re family. Well, in the case of these of two Connecticut women who had the same feeling, that ended up being the case.

Best friends Julia Tinetti and Cassandra Madison learned that they were biological sisters, adopted from the Dominican Republic.

The story is stranger than fiction. Julia and Madison met in 2013, when they both worked at a bar called The Russian Lady in New Haven, Connecticut. The women immediately bonded when they discovered that they both had tattoos of the Dominican Republic’s flag.

Cassandra rehashed the meeting via a Facebook post: “Julia notices the Dominican flag on my arm and makes a comment about how she’s Dominican too BUT she’s adopted from there. I stop her in her tracks and tell her I’m adopted from there too.”

“After that moment, we were so tight,” Julia told Good Morning America. “We started hanging out. We would go out for drinks, for dinner. We started dressing alike.”

Apparently, Cassandra felt the same way. “I thought she was cool,” Cassandra said to GMA. “We just kind of hit it off right away. It was very natural.”

According to them, coworkers were always telling them that they looked like sisters. But when the two of them cross-referenced their birth certificate, their information didn’t add up.

“Papers said we were from two different cities [with] different last names,” Julia explained. “And, our mothers’ names on our paperwork were different.” But the two women believed they were somehow connected–they just didn’t know how.

The mystery finally began to unravel after Cassandra took a 23andMe DNA test.

Through 23andMe’s genetic database, Cassandra tracked down her biological family in the Dominican Republic through a first cousin. She then traveled to the DR where she met her bio-family for the first time–an incredibly emotionally experience. While Cassandra’s bio-father was still alive, her bio-mother had passed away in 2015 from a heart attack.

Years later, Cassandra finally pressed her bio-father on whether or not he had put up another child for adoption. While at first he was hesitant to talk about the painful memory, he finally admitted that he had, indeed, put another child up for adoption years ago.

It was then that Cassandra finally urged Julia to take a DNA test so they could finally put their questions to rest.

The results came back on January 28th, 2021 and finally confirmed what they had long suspected: they were biological sisters.

The entire ordeal has been both thrilling, joyful, and emotionally taxing for the women. At times, it has even been bittersweet, considering the trauma their biological family endured in the past.

“On top of the DR being a very poor country, [our family] couldn’t take care of us,” Julia explained. “I was [born] 17 months later and they weren’t ready.”

All in all, Julia summed up how she feels about the situation in a very direct way: “This is the type of thing you see on TV.”

We couldn’t agree more!

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4-Year-Old Girl Accidentally Hung Herself While Climbing A Tree

Things That Matter

4-Year-Old Girl Accidentally Hung Herself While Climbing A Tree

A mother living in the United Kingdom is enduring a “hellstorm of grief” following the tragic death of her 4-year-old daughter. Just days after welcoming her twin daughters, Elise Thorpe was forced to learn of her daughter Freya’s shocking death after she climbed a tree near her home in Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire.

Just before her death, Freya was wearing a bicycle helmet when she went for her tree clim.

Freya slipped and began to fall off of the tree when her helmet strap caught on to a branch.

Elisa Thorpe is speaking out about the incident which took place in September 2019 despite efforts to resuscitate her daughter by emergency responders. According to Yahoo, “An inquest into her death in January 2020 ruled that she ‘potentially slipped’ and her helmet caught on a branch, causing the helmet strap to become ‘tight against her throat.’ She died in hospital two days later.”

Speaking about the incident Elise told The Sun “We live every day and night in hell, torture, sheer shock, and grief that can’t be comprehended.”

Elise told South West News Service that she and her husband “were on cloud nine after the long-awaited arrival and difficult pregnancy” of their twins Kiera and Zack. Speaking about the grief she experienced, Elise said that she would have taken her own life had it not been for the birth of her children.

Recalling the day of Freya’s death, Elise explained that her little girl had gone for a playdate.

“In the early afternoon, Daddy had to go off to collect the special milk from Boots pharmacy in Cowley for the twins, as they were allergic to cow’s milk,” Elise Thorpe explained about how her daughter had been invited to play at a house just a 10-second walk away.

Freya had gone outside without her mother knowing.

“I had a gut feeling I wanted her home. Shortly after, I saw an ambulance at the end of the road – I panicked, at the time not knowing why I was panicking,” Elise told SWNS. “I called my husband to say I was going to get her back from the house behind. He said, ‘No, I’m five minutes away, stay with the babies.’”

“I saw his car go past and not return from the little cul-de-sac. I knew something was wrong,” she went onto explain. After spotting her husband speaking with a firefighter, Elise “grabbed the twins and rushed to a cordoned area where she saw first responders working desperately on Freya.”

After two days of waiting at John Radcliffe Hospital, the Thorpe family learned Freya could not be saved.

“I never stepped foot inside my home again. This is something I also lost and miss to this day — my home,” Elise went onto say. “Had I not given birth only 10 days before we would have taken our lives in the hospital that night, without a shadow of a doubt… We have had so much support over the last 18 months and we can’t tell you all how much that’s helped us through and for that I can never thank everyone enough for the support, kind words and donations – even from those we’ve never met.”

“But we’ve also experienced scrutiny and abuse from people who’ve asked, ‘Where were the parents? How could they let her out alone?’” she added sadly. “It has caused family rifts from relatives and judgment all because people didn’t know Freya wasn’t in our care when this happened.”

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