Staring at Jill Kelley’s $1.3 million mansion from the street, it would be hard not to think that this was a person who had made it in life.
The vast 1923 brick house is in one of the most fashionable districts of Tampa, Florida, and is over the bay from one of New York Yankee Derek Jeter’s homes.
The lawns are perfectly manicured, it has six bedrooms and four bathrooms for the hundreds of military guests who used to attend parties there.
A closer look, however, and you notice that the paint is peeling on the outside and wooden chairs at all rather too well worn.
The owners have been sued for $4.1 million of debts and are, as we found out this week, at the centre of the biggest scandal to rock the military in living memory.
If ever there was a perfect metaphor for the life that Jill Kelley has been living, then her house would be it. A lot of front, in other words, and a hollow, brazen ambition on the inside.
Until this week the only view we had to Jill Kelley’s life was that of the outsider, but now we all know what was going on behind closed doors it raise more questions than it answers.
General John Allen, the commander of US troops in Afghanistan, sent her up to 30,000 emails including some which were reportedly of an inappropriate nature.
Through her connections, Jill Kelley grew so close to General David Petraeus that she was invited to his daughter Anne’s wedding.
Even the FBI agent who investigated her claims that David Petraeus’ mistress Paula Broadwell had sent her threatening emails was so enraptured that he sent her a picture of himself with no shirt on.
So beloved was the “social liason” to the military that all Jill Kelley had to do was give the guard at MacDill Air Force Base a wave of her perfectly manicured hand and she would be let in to fraternize as she pleased.
But no longer – with her access revoked and the scandal in full public view, many are asking the questions they should have asked from the beginning.
What exactly it is about this former mathlete that powerful men cannot resist?
And what is it about her that takes great pleasure in seeing a man in uniform go weak at the knees when she walks into the room?
A look into Jill Kelley’s background reveals that she could not have been more different than how she has ended up.
Jill Kelley and twin sister Natalie Khawam waited until their teens at the earliest before embarking on their transition to a more shameless version of the Kardashians. (Which takes some doing, considering that Kim Kardashian became famous for starring in her very own sex tape.)
Jill Kelley’s parents Marcelle and John Khawam moved to Philadelphia from Lebanon in the 1970s, presumably to give a better life to their children, whom they raised as Catholic.
They opened a Middle Eastern restaurant in Voorhees, New Jersey before moving to Pennsylvania where both girls attended Lower Moreland High School in Huntingdon Valley.
Classmates remembered the girls as “The Twins” because they spent so much time together, never went to any parties and did not appear to have even gone to the prom.
But in a sign of things to come, at 18, Jill Kelley, then Jill Khawam, responded to taunts about her big nose: “You’ll be in awe of me after I have a nosejob.” Jill Kelley, now a mother of three, appears to have met her future husband Scott, a cancer surgeon, in Pennsylvania and a decade ago they moved to Tampa, taking in Natalie Khawam as a permanent guest in their new home, which they bought in 2004.
It was there that Jill Kelley set about turning herself into the to go-to girl for any party that the military put on.
First she had to look the part – out went the t-shirts, jeans and cheap pearls of her high school days.
In came designer dresses, high heels, expensive handbags and a new sleek hairstyle instead of her voluminous youthful look.
In also came the guests at her regular parties – David Petraeus, General John Allen, and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is a close ally of Mitt Romney.
There are even claims her sister, Natalie Khawam, dated the former Florida governor, Charlie Crist.
It is likely senior FBI officials were also invited to sup cocktails on the lawn and meet the mayor and other local dignitaries.
A band would sometimes play amid a Cosmopolitan atmosphere that included high ranking French and Italian military officers.
So good a host was Jill Kelley that she became “honorary consul” to South Korea, a title with no responsibilities but official enough for her to put on her number plate.
Such delusions of grandeur were apparent when she phoned police in recent days asking for “diplomatic protection” because she was annoyed at journalists knocking on her door.
Meanwhile we now know that Jill Kelley’s world was falling apart.
She has been sued by Central Bank for $1.9 million for failing to keep up with mortgage payments on a home she bought after starting a property company.
Regions Bank sued her and her husband, Scott Kelley, for $1.8 million over the mortgage on another home and filed another claim for $453,000.
Bank of America followed suit for $25,000 of unpaid credit card charges.
Then came the Petraeus sex scandal, which makes her financial problems look like a drop in the ocean.
And Natalie Khawam has had it no easier, even appealing to David Petraeus and General John Allen to write letters to a judge on her behalf as she fought a doomed battled to win back custody of her four-year-old son.
A year ago, the judge had resoundingly denied custody to Natalie Khawam, saying he had serious concerns and reservations over her mental stability and her grasp on reality.
He also cited Natalie Khawam with “outrageous conduct”, “bad faith litigation tactics”, and “illogical thinking” before awarding full custody to the father, Grayson Wolfe, who had been unable to see his child for more than a year.
The New York Post claimed Grayson Wolfe won sole custody of the boy after the judge found out Natalie Khawam, a lawyer, repeatedly lied under oath and filed false domestic-violence and child-abuse claims against her husband.