'Private Practice' scoop: Chris Lowell not returning for season 4

chris-lowell-private-prac.jpgThis season on "Private Practice," Chris Lowell's character Dell hasn't had an easy ride. His daughter, Betsey, was left motherless after his wife Heather was killed in a meth-lab explosion.

Now, sources close to the show tell Zap2it that Lowell will not be returning to the show for Season 4. Is it possible that Betsey will be orphaned in the May 13 finale?

Lowell's episode order for Season 3 was cut back from 22 to a minimum of 13 episodes, though he did remain a series regular. Because his appearances on the show have been intermittent at best, it's not surprising to learn that he's being phased out for a more permanent absence. Lowell "will be leaving the show after Season 3 and has no plans to return for Season 4," our source says.

ABC reps couldn't be reached for comment Sunday (May 2).

According to our source, Lowell is not unhappy with the decision. Being released from his "Private Practice" contract means Lowell is free to relocate to New York City and pursue other projects.

He's not the only regular cast member searching for an exit sign. "A couple of cast members are looking to get out of their contracts," says our source, citing Audra McDonald as an example. "They aren't happy on the show." We may have another "Grey's Anatomy" on our hands.

There's no word on the circumstances of Dell's departure from Oceanside Wellness, but sources confirm that a "favorite character will die in the season finale." Could the "Private Practice" team really kill off Dell and leave Betsey without any parents at all?

Update: Reps for ABC have no comment.

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Photo credit: ABC