Marg Helgenberger Set to Leave CSI In January

It looks like Catherine Willows is hanging up her lab coat for good.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marg Helgenberger, who has played the forensic scientist since the show aired in 2000, will leave the Las Vegas Police Department during CSI’s 12th season.

Helgenberger originally wanted to leave the cast at the end of season 11, but was convinced by executive producer Carol Mendelsohn to stay on through January in order to give the character a proper send-off.

“The combination of that info and me having a hard time letting go of this show and this group of people, I said, ‘Yeah, I’m not done playing this character; I’m not done letting go of this group of people,” the actress told The Hollywood Reporter.

This could be a huge blow for the series, which is one of the most watched programs in the world. Willows is perhaps its most well-known character (after Gil Grissom, of course) and her departure could cause the loss of die-hard fans.

Helgenberger has received two Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for the role, and has appeared in all but six episodes.

What does this mean for the future of CSI? Could the juggernaut show be on its last legs? Find out when season 12 premieres September 21st on CBS.