Jill Kelley's private life displays two sides

Jill Kelley,  David Petraeus,  Scott Kelley,  Holly Petraeus, Natalie Khawam
(Left to right) Jill Kelley's twin sister Natalie Khawam, David Petraeus, Dr. Scott Kelley, Jill Kelley, and Holly Petraeus watch the Gasparilla parade from the Kelley family's front lawn in a 2010 photo.

(CBS News) The center of the David Petraeus saga is Tampa, where the Pentagon's Central Command is headquartered on an Air Force base.

CENTCOM, as it's known, is in charge of the Middle East. Petraeus was the head of the command before he retired to head the CIA, and Gen. John Allen was deputy commander. That's how they met Jill Kelley, who often hosted parties for officers and civilians.

The picture that emerges of Jill Kelley has two sides: One portrays a wealthy socialite who devotes a lot of her time to the military; the other is that of a woman who seeks out powerful connections and is not afraid to use them.

Scott Kelley, Jill Kelley
Dr. Scott Kelley and Jill Kelley, in an undated photo Courtesy of Tampa Bay Magazine

Dr. Scott Kelley, a prominent Tampa surgeon, and his wife Jill, a socialite, are on all the right VIP lists at MacDill Air Force Base, and according to current and former military officials, she was a force to be reckoned with. Kelley participated in events to welcome officers from foreign countries and was given a certificate naming her honorary ambassador to the Coalition Forces.

A State Department spokesman went to pains to state the obvious, that she was never an official U.S. ambassador: "She does not work for the State Department and has no formal affiliation with the State Department."

But in 911 calls made to Tampa police this week about trespassing reporters, Jill Kelley seems to indicate that her property is considered diplomatic soil.

"I'm the honorary consul general so they should not be on my property," Kelley said. "I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well."

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Who is Jill Kelley?

A former military officer told us that Kelley often sought to bypass protocol officers and make direct connections with the top generals such as Petraeus and Allen. She also courted their wives. Sources describe her as a prolific emailer and caller. One admiral instructed an aide: "You'll have to manage her for me."

Living in a million-dollar home, the Kelley's seemed to perfectly blend social status, patriotism and philanthropy. But records on file with the state of Florida show nine different court actions involving debts, mortgages and a foreclosure.

Kelley's powerful military connections surfaced in another court matter when she sought help for her twin sister, Natalie Khawam, in a bitter child custody fight.

Gen. Allen and Gen. Petraeus signed letters to the court that bear four-star-general emblems and are dated five-and-a-half weeks ago.

"Natalie clearly dotes on her son," wrote Petraeus. "It is unfortunate, in my view, that her interaction with her son has been so limited by the custody settlement."

Gen. Allen says in his letter that the toddler shouldn't be penalized by "limiting his expectations to experience the love, mentorship, and guidance of his mother."

The judge in the case had a different view. He expressed "profound concerns about Ms. Khawam's "extreme distortions" and "severe psychological deficits." He called Khawam a "psychologically unstable person" with an "unsteady moral and ethical compass."

CBS News spoke to Natalie Khawam's lawyer, who didn't address the judge's comments directly, but allowed that any custody hearing involving children is an excruciatingly sensitive, painful, and personal proceeding. He also said he's not representing her any more.

There is also a very high profile lawyer representing Jill Kelley now, and he said as far as getting letters from Petraeus and General Allen, friends have the right to write letters for friends.

  • John Miller
    John Miller

    John Miller is a senior correspondent for CBS News, with extensive experience in intelligence, law enforcement and journalism, including stints in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI.