N.J. woman survives a home invasion where she was brutally stabbed by a young stranger
Despite losing three quarters of the blood in her body, Donna Ongsiako was able to help police find the person who almost took her life.
On July 7, 2013, shortly after midnight, Donna Ongsiako was rushed to the hospital. She had been stabbed repeatedly in a violent home invasion. She was in surgery for over seven hours, but she survived.
“I lost in total close to three quarters of the blood in my body,” Ongsiako told “48 Hours.” “There’s no earthly reason why I’m alive.”
A scratching noise
Ongsiako says before she was attacked, she had just gone to bed for the evening. As she drifted off to sleep, she heard what she thought was her cat scratching at the door.
She went downstairs to let the cat in.
A stranger with a knife
Instead of her cat, when she opened the door, Ongsiako says she saw a stranger on her porch. He had a knife and was attempting to cut her window screen.
Pushed his way in
When Ongsiako tried to shut the door, the intruder stuck the knife through the opening and cut her finger. He pushed his way into her home and began slashing her. After she collapsed to the ground, Ongsiako says he asked for her car keys and a lighter.
Ongsiako says she told the intruder her keys and lighter were on the kitchen table. He took them along with her entire purse. After stabbing Ongsiako a final time in the chest, he walked out the door.
Alone on a flower farm
Ongsiako’s house was on the edge of a flower farm in Colts Neck, N.J., with no neighbors in earshot.
Ongsiako lived with her adult daughter, Kiersten. But on the night of her attack, she was home alone. Her daughter was out at a party.
Ongsiako knew her survival depended on reaching her cellphone which was charging upstairs.
The 911 call
Ongsiako says thinking about Kiersten finding her dead motivated her to climb these stairs despite her serious injuries. She got through to 911 and was able to give a detailed description of her attacker before briefly losing consciousness.
Ongsiako told police he had long, blonde, curly hair and a backpack and looked about 17.
A tip from Taco Bell
Not long after Ongsiako’s 911 call, police got a call from a fast-food restaurant five miles from her home. Employees reported seeing a young, blonde man with a backpack. They said he was walking through their drive-thru, knocking on windows and was carrying a knife.
An abandoned vehicle
While searching for the young man who had been spotted at the Taco Bell, police found Ongsiako’s stolen vehicle. It had been ditched behind a movie theater, in the same shopping center as the fast-food restaurant. The lights of the vehicle were on, and it was still running.
Detectives said the vehicle would become crucial in the investigation. There was blood all over it, and they hoped to find DNA of their suspect.
A police sketch
Within two days, a customer who saw the young man at the Taco Bell met with a police sketch artist. After making a few tweaks, Ongsiako said the sketch looked like the person who had stabbed her. The sketch was soon plastered all over Monmouth County.
More security footage
Investigators reviewed the cameras of stores in the shopping center near the Taco Bell to see if they’d get lucky and spot their suspect. Their suspect was caught again on security footage, this time walking outside a Verizon store.
A crucial tip
Not long after the police sketch began circulating, just eight days after Donna’s attack, Monmouth County Detective Andrea Tozzi got an important tip.
The tipster pointed investigators to 16-year-old Brennan Doyle and said Doyle fit the description of the suspect’s sketch that was around town. And according to the tipster, Doyle, who normally had long skater-style hair — had recently cut his hair much shorter, similar to how it appears in this photo.
A suspect who lived nearby
The teen and his family lived just up the road from Ongsiako’s house. Detectives visited the Doyle home in late July. Detective Tozzi, pictured with “48 Hours” contributor Jim Axelrod, says she wanted to see if Doyle had cut his hair.
A DNA match
The investigation lasted through the summer of 2013. Brennan Doyle remained the only likely suspect.
Detective Tozzi says in September, investigators had gotten a warrant to obtain Doyle’s DNA. Ultimately, the results showed Doyle’s DNA matched unknown DNA found in Ongsiako’s car.
A knife on top of the strip mall
In early October, police got a call that a knife had been found on the roof of a bowling alley in the same strip mall where Ongsiako’s car had been ditched. Repairmen were servicing an air conditioning unit when they found it.
Investigators then got a warrant to search Doyle’s home. They found a similar knife from the same set.
In late October 2013, Brennan Doyle was arrested. He was facing six counts including attempted murder and carjacking. Seen here are the keys Doyle took from Donna Ongsiako’s purse.
A plea and sentencing
According to investigative reports, Doyle claimed that on the night of Ongsiako’s attack, he was under the influence of hallucinogenic “magic” mushrooms.
In August 2015, Doyle agreed to a plea deal, pleading guilty to carjacking and attempted murder. The prosecution dropped the remaining charges.
In October, Doyle was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.
A survivor’s journey
Even with Doyle off the streets, Ongsiako, pictured right, was still struggling. She had found PTSD and domestic violence support groups but says there were none for victims of random attacks. So, in 2015, she decided to create her own: Survivors of Violent Crimes.
Recognized for her work
In July 2019, Ongsiako’s local community honored her for her work with Survivors of Violent Crimes. She’s gratified she can help others rebuild their lives as she continues to rebuild hers.
Sharing her story
Ongsiako says her work isn’t done. She has more plans for her support group including helping victims connect with trauma therapists and offering self-defense classes.
She’s also educating others. She travels to prisons, meeting with inmates and addresses police cadets so they can understand the victim’s point of view.