Jill Kelley biography: Tampa housewife whose complaint to the FBI brought the downfall of David Petraeus
The investigation that brought the downfall of General David Petraeus, one of America’s most respected war heroes, began with Jill Kelley, a suburban housewife in Tampa, Florida.
Jill Kelley, a 37-year-old mother of three, became close with the former CIA director when he was serving at nearby MacDill Air Force Base between 2008 and 2010.
Jill Kelley served as an unpaid, unofficial social liaison for U.S. Central Command, which David Petraeus led at the time, and was reportedly a fixture at parties among the top brass – along with her husband Scott, a prominent cancer surgeon.
David Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell, revealed to be his mistress, sent harassing emails to Jill Kelley.
Jill Kelley responded by calling the FBI, which stumbled on Paula Broadwell’s affair when agents examined her email account and found steamy exchanges with David Petraeus.
Scott and Jill Kelley lives in a $1.4million brick mansion in an upscale neighborhood of Tampa – and they love to entertain.
Jill Kelley and her children, age six, seven and nine, packed their bags and left the home in one of Tampa’s most exclusive neighborhoods as national news crews lined up outside her door.
She boasted about serving dinner to David Petraeus and his wife Holly in 2007.
The general and his wife, Holly Petraeus, were both pictures to the Kelleys and Jill Kelley’s twin sister Natalie Khawam.
On Sunday, as news of her involved in the scandal made her a national figure, Jill Kelley did not postpone a lavish garden party that was thrown for her daughter’s birthday.
The gathering featured a professional deejay, an inflatable bouncy castle and catered meals and more than 100 adult guests.
Neighbors said Jill Kelley was a “devoted mother” who enjoyed entertaining at her 5,000 sq ft home.
One neighbor said: “Jill is very proud of her work with the military and she does all she can for them.
“She is a great morale booster and uses her social position as the wife of a prominent surgeon to make sure she makes a difference.”
Each year Jill Kelley and her husband Scott host a party on their extensive manicured front lawn to celebrate the Gasparilla Festival in Tampa.
In 2010, General David Petraeus and his wife Holly attended the pirate themed festival staged at Jill Kelley’s home.
David Petraeus arrived with a 28 motorcycle escort and mingled with more than 200 guests who dined on crab cakes and lamb chops.
At this year’s Gasparilla festival, where pirate themed floats are driven through Tampa, the Kelley’s hosted military officers from 60 nations to a coalition appreciation party.
Tight security surrounded the Kelley’s home during the event.
One neighbors complained that it resulted in the street running alongside the Kelley’s red and white painted mansion being closed off to traffic for the day.
“You soon know when Jill is having a party It’s like having the president come to town as everything shuts down. There is security everywhere and you cannot move,” said one neighbor.
Jill Kelley, who said she has known David Petraeus and his wife Holly for five years, has visited them in Washington DC.
She is also reported to have been invited to a breakfast at the White House.
In recognition of her work with officials at CENTCOM, Jill Kelley was recently named as a honorary consulate general to South Korea.
Jill Kelley is said to regard David Petraeus as being like a grandfather to her children, aged nine, seven and six.
Jill Kelley and her friends and family maintain her relationship to the four-star general was never anything more than friendship.
“We and our family have been friends with General Petraeus and his family for over five years. We respect his and his family’s privacy and want the same for us and our three children,” the Kelleys said in statement on Sunday.
Military sources say that Jill Kelley was frequently seen in David Petraeus’ company at social events held at Central Command headquarters.
Central Command oversees U.S. military operations across the Middle East – including in Iraq and Afghanistan. David Petraeus was promoted lead the command, based in Tampa, in October 2008 after successfully engineering and executing the surge strategy.
While in Tampa, David Petraeus worked to reorganize Central Command from its original Cold War era footing to focusing more on counterinsurgency.
David Petraeus left Tampa in June 2010 when President Barack Obama tapped him to lead a turnaround of the war in Afghanistan.
Jill and Scott Kelley have lived in the Bayshore Boulevard mansion since 2006.
Dr. Scott Kelley is head of Esophageal Oncology and Surgery at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer and Research Institute in Tampa.
He pioneered minimally-invasive, hand-assisted laparoscopic surgery of the esophagus and other gastrointestinal malignancies.
Jill Kelley, who drives a black Lincoln Escalade SUV, has a twin sister Natalie Khawam, who is a Tampa lawyer who represents corporate whistle blowers.
The sisters, who are from Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, took part in Food Fight, a culinary showdown for the Food Network channel in 2003.
Their Lebanese-American parents still reportedly own a restaurant in Philadelphia.
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