When Doña Ongsiako opened her front door just after midnight to let her cat in, the last thing she expected to see was a stranger with a knife. It was July 7, 2013, and up until that point, Donna says, it had been a routine weekend.
Now she was confronted by a young man on her porch, cutting the curtains of her porch window.
“I tried to slam the door shut,” Wongsiako said. “He stuck the knife through the opening, and I cut my finger so that I immediately let go of the door. And then he pushed his way in.”
Without saying a word, the stranger repeatedly stabbed Wongxiako. After she fell to the floor, she said the intruder finally spoke to her. “He then decided to ask me for my car keys and if I had a lighter.” She told him both were on the kitchen table, and he took them — along with her purse. But, she says, she’s not done with him. He came to where she lay bleeding. “He said, ‘You dead bitch’ and plunged the knife into my chest.” Then, she says, her attacker left.
Ongsiako’s home was located on a flower farm in Colts Neck, NJ where her adult daughter Kiersten lived but was out at a party. Home alone, bleeding profusely, out of earshot of neighbors, Donna’s only chance of survival rested on reaching for her cellphone, which was charging upstairs.
Kiersten probably thought of finding him dead, prompting Wongxiako to climb those stairs. To this day, she doesn’t know how she did it. She managed to call 911 and described her assailant, before briefly losing consciousness. She had long blonde, curly hair and a backpack. Wongsiako thought he was about 17 years old.
Police and first responders arrived within minutes, but the youth fled. Wongsiako was rushed to the hospital and underwent surgery for more than seven hours. It saved his life.
Wongsiako is now speaking publicly about her attack, finding her assailant and overcoming the trauma. “48 Hours” contributor Jim Axelrod reports on the case on “A Stabbing in Colt’s Neck,” airing Saturday, May 13 at 10/9c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.
Almost immediately after the attack, a search for Wongxiao’s attacker began. Monmouth County Detective Andrea Tozzi said shortly before Ongsiako called 911, a driver called police to report a young man walking down the street near Ongsiako’s home with a backpack. Police responded but the young man left. Tozzi had a strong lead in it. “It was so coincidental,” she said, “someone walks by … and then 15 minutes later, you know, Donna’s calling to say she’s been stabbed.”
Toji said police received another call shortly after Wongsiako’s attack. Employees at a Taco Bell at a strip mall five miles from Wongsiako’s home reported a young man with a similar appearance walking through their drive-thru with a knife. Police couldn’t find him, but while searching the area, they found Wongxiako’s stolen car abandoned behind a movie theater. Then a Taco Bell customer who saw the suspect helped police create a sketch. Investigators showed it to Wongsiako who tweeted it, saying, “It looks like the person who stabbed me.”
A tip led investigators to 16-year-old Brennan Doyle, who lived near Wongshiakko’s home. Doyle fits the description of the suspect sketched around town, the tipster said, and what’s more, he recently cut his “skater”-style hair short.
Toji had never heard of Doyle before. Searching his background, he found no juvenile records. “He was never arrested,” he said.
At the end of July, when the Doyle family returned from a trip to town, the detective visited their home. “I wanted to see if (Brennan) cut his hair.” Tozzi said he was nervous when Brennan showed him the suspect sketch. “He was wearing a baseball cap,” she said, but “you could tell his hair was cut short.” He continues to monitor Doyle while investigating other leads.
In the fall of 2013, employees of a bowling alley in the strip mall where Wongsiako’s car was abandoned alerted police that they had found a knife on their roof. Investigators obtained a warrant to search Doyle’s home where they recovered a similar knife. They already had a warrant for Brennan’s DNA, which eventually matched the DNA found in Wongxiako’s stolen car. In late October, Doyle was arrested and charged with six counts, including attempted murder and carjacking. He pleaded not guilty.
Former Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Lori Gerhard explained that she wanted to charge Doyle as an adult because of the seriousness of the crime. “In juvenile court, Brennan is looking at a maximum of four years … in adult court, I know he’s looking at up to 30 years,” she said.
A judge ruled that Doyle would be tried as an adult, and Doyle posted bail. Wongsiako “felt angry that he was even allowed bail.” His daughter Kiersten said she was afraid of Doyle.
Details of what happened the night of Wongsiako’s attack emerged as prosecutors prepared for trial. According to the investigative report, Doyle claimed that prior to the stabbing, he had consumed hallucinogenic “magic” mushrooms. He said he became paranoid and felt he was losing touch with reality. He said he had a knife in his hand, so his father locked him out of their house.
Investigators believe Doyle approached Wongxiako’s nearby home that night, intending to steal her car. But Gerhard doesn’t believe Doyle behaved like a disabled person. “This kid is out of his mind complaining about all these mushrooms, managed to pull out a knife,” he told Axelrod. “… He leaves the car… This is not a kid who’s so high on mushrooms, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
NJ Department of Corrections
In August 2015, Doyle pleaded guilty to carjacking and attempted murder. The prosecution dropped the rest of the charges.
Wongsiako attended his sentencing. “I wanted her to see me as strong and a survivor,” she said.
It was Doyle’s turn to address the court. “The drugs made me a monster that night,” he said. “I’m really sorry.”
Doyle was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.
Wongsiako now shares her story, speaking to prison inmates and police cadet classes, teaching them about the victims’ perspective. And in 2015, she created a support group to help other victims of random attacks. Donna says she’s trying to rebuild her life and move on.
“You just keep going,” says Donna. “I did what I had to do to stay here today, you know, and go another day.”