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Chris Meloni Leaves Law & Order: Special Victims Unit After 12 Seasons

Chris Meloni, Law & Order Special Victims Unit Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Farewell and thank you, Detective Elliot Stabler.

Christopher Meloni, who has played the short-fused, well-muscled sex-crimes detective for 12 seasons on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, will not returning for season 13. Meloni's rep told us, "It is true—12 great years and time for the next chapter."

MORE: NBC News: Chuck Survives to Spy Another Day, Chris Meloni Hasn't Renewed SVU Contract Yet

Meloni's partner-in-crime Mariska Hargitay will be back for season 13. She will reportedly be on the special-victims beat full-time for the first 13 episodes of the season, and then step back to part-time status as her character, Detective Olivia Benson, gets a promotion to a more senior, less featured position in the police department.

Meloni's costar Ice T tweeted in reaction to the news, "Honestly.. The news about Chris today was a BOMB to me too! Sad. But you never know what to expect in this TV bizz.... Stay tuned."

The departure of Meloni and the diminished role for Hargitay on SVU this year are two more nails in the coffin of NBC's epic Law & Order franchise. The original Law & Order shut down last season after 20 years, Law & Order: Los Angeles was canceled this year after just one season, and the 10th and final season of Law & Order: Criminal Intent is now airing on USA Network.

How do you guys feel about this news? What do you want for Benson and Stabler as they finish their run on the series? Hit the comments.

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