Christopher Meloni OUT At 'Law & Order: SVU': Actor Leaves After 12 Seasons

SHOCKER: 'Law & Order: SVU' Star LEAVES The Show

After 272 episodes of solving especially vexing murders, Detective Elliot Stabler and NBC couldn't crack the Case of the 13th Season Contract. And so after years of primetime glory, crime fighting and an Emmy nomination to boot, Christopher Meloni has left the Special Victims Unit.

TV Line reported on Tuesday night that Meloni has left the NBC hit "Law & Order: SVU," exiting after contract negotiations fell through between the star and network. Series creator Dick Wolf is already searching for a big name replacement -- unfortunately, CBS has already gobbled up Ashton Kutcher for a similar series-saving move -- the site reports, though the network chose not to comment.

The shock move comes hot on the heels of speculation about the future of the show's other star, Mariska Hargitay. Though she's under contract for the upcoming season, NBC president Bob Greenblatt admitted that, given her new child, she may not be back for a 14th. That has put producers in the position of having to reduce her role in the upcoming season, moving her to a supervisory role -- and potentially replacing her with former "Ghost Whisperer" star Jennifer Love Hewitt.

As for Meloni, it's unclear what he'll do next; he's had a number of movie roles, including in "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" and "Nights in Rodanthe," and recently starred and directed the National Lampoon film, "Dirty Movie."

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