TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - The woman identified as the source of an FBI probe that led to the downfall of CIA Director David Petraeus, asked for privacy on Sunday as she hosted a lavish birthday party for one of her children on the front lawn of her mansion-style home near MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
Jill Kelley, 37, a volunteer social liaison with military families at the base, declined to speak to news crews gathered outside, with the exception of a society columnist for the Tampa Bay Times. The newspaper later reported that she had expressed “her family’s continuing fondness for Petraeus.”
More than 100 adults and children attended the party at Kelley’s home on Tampa’s exclusive Bayshore Drive.
A source close to the Petraeus family confirmed that Kelley, and her husband, Scott Kelley, a Tampa cancer surgeon, became friends when Petraeus was stationed at MacDill from 2008 until 2010 as commander of the military’s Central Command (Centcom), which runs operations in the Middle East.
The couples stayed in touch, later meeting in Washington when the Kelleys visited relatives.
The source stressed that Kelley and Petraeus “are longtime friends and nothing more.”
The FBI investigation that led to the discovery of Petraeus’ affair with author Paula Broadwell was sparked by threatening emails from her to Kelley.
The CIA director’s name unexpectedly turned up in the course of the investigation, according U.S. law enforcement and security officials.
“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,” Kelley said in a statement published on the website of ABC News.
The Kelleys regularly made the guest list for military functions at MacDill and also hosted Petraeus and his wife at their home in 2010, to observe the city’s colorful annual Gasparilla pirate fest, according to a report at the time.
After Petraeus left Tampa the Kelleys remained involved in military social affairs at Centcom, now under the command of General James Mattis.
Jill Kelley’s identical twin sister, Natalie Khawam, is a Tampa lawyer who represents healthcare fraud and whistleblowers cases, according to her Linkedin website.
The sisters grew up in a Maronite Christian family in Philadelphia, where their Lebanese-born parents owned a restaurant, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Writing by David Adams. Additional reporting by Rick Rothacker. Editing by Christopher Wilson