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Jill Kelley leaves her home in Tampa, Fla., Nov 12, 2012. (Chris O'Meara/AP)
Jill Kelley leaves her home in Tampa, Fla., Nov 12, 2012. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

Lives of three women intertwine in downfall of David Petraeus Add to ...

In a scathing decision in November, 2011 against Ms. Khawam that granted sole primary and legal custody of their then 3-year-old son to Mr. Wolfe, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz refused to believe Ms. Kelley’s claims that Mr. Wolfe had tried to push her sister down a flight of steps in Ms. Kelley’s Tampa home.

“The court does not credit this testimony,” Judge Kravitz wrote, calling Ms. Kelley “a patently biased and unbelievable witness.”

Neither Judge Wolfe nor Ms. Khawam could be reached for comment.

Ms. Broadwell, 40, who sources said sent the threatening emails to Ms. Kelley, is an Army reserve officer and doctoral student who lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband and two young children.

FBI agents searched Ms. Broadwell’s home on Monday, entering the house carrying boxes and remaining there for almost two hours. There was no sign that Ms. Broadwell or members of her family were at the house during the FBI search.

Ms. Broadwell met Mr. Petraeus in 2006 when she was student at Harvard. The general gave her his card and offered to help with her studies.

In 2010 when Ms. Petraeus was named commander in Afghanistan, she decided to turn a dissertation about his leadership into a book, called All In, which was published in January. Interviews for the book often took place during runs together, Ms. Broadwell said later.

A person who knows Ms. Broadwell and Mr. Petraeus said she stood out in Afghanistan as an “alpha woman” who was attractive, fit, smart and driven. It was not unusual for Mr. Petraeus to mentor younger soldiers and take an interest in scholarly work, said this person.

Ms. Broadwell has not responded to requests for comment.

It is not clear how much Holly Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell have interacted. In the book’s acknowledgements, Ms. Broadwell gives “special thanks” to Holly, but no interviews are listed with her in the notes.

The book describes how Mr. Petraeus and Hollister “Holly” Knowlton, a student at Dickinson College, first met on a blind date in 1973 at a college football game at West Point, where Mr. Petraeus was a cadet. Holly’s father, General William Knowlton, was the superintendent at West Point, and Mr. Petraeus found the “stature of Holly’s family intoxicating,” the book says.

Holly has been a dedicated military spouse who endured her husband’s extended absences over the past decade, said Peter Mansoor, who was Mr. Petraeus’ executive officer in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.

“They’ve been apart more time than they have been together, with him being overseas on five different deployments,” Mr. Mansoor said. “She was a stalwart Army trooper through it all.”

At the Senate hearing on confirmation of his appointment at the CIA in June 2011, some senators, including John McCain and Joe Lieberman, paid tribute to Holly, as did Mr. Petraeus.

“Holly was recently described as being bright, nice, small and a pit bull, someone you want in your corner,” Mr. Petraeus said. “I’ve been blessed to have had her in my corner for some 37 years and 23 moves, and I appreciate the opportunity this afternoon to recognize her publicly.”

Since January 2011, Holly Petraeus has led an office that advocates for military families at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Jean Ann Fox of the Consumer Federation of America, said Holly Petraeus has traveled all over the country to talk to service members and has a reputation for spending time with families and talking about her own experiences and observations as a military spouse.

“She has shined a light on a lot of problems that impact the military, and hopefully as time goes on, enforcement actions will help take care of some of that,” Ms. Fox said.

A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau spokeswoman said Holly Petraeus remains a key leader at the agency and would have no further comment. She posted a Veteran’s Day message on the bureau’s website on Friday, the same day her husband’s resignation became public.

Mr. Mansoor, trying to explain Mr. Petraeus’ behavior, said he believes he might have struggled with the social transition from his life in a military “cocoon” to his work at the CIA.

“I think that General Petraeus found himself a little bit isolated socially at the CIA and his manner of reaching out was through the person who made herself the most available to him and that was Paula Broadwell,” Mr. Mansoor said.

Holly Petraeus is furious with her husband, said Mr. Mansoor. “He’s going to do what he can to repair his relationship,” he said.

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