Murder accused Brett Ashby has died of liver cancer.
The 50-year-old had denied killing Grant "Granite" Adams in December 2005 over a drug deal.
Police alleged the Tauranga company director shot Mr Adams with a semi-automatic pistol before burying his body with a digger near Taupo.
The remains were found in June 2007.
It had been no secret that Ashby was suffering from cancer and in September last year the High Court in Rotorua allowed his release on bail after an application on compassionate grounds.
At the time he had not been expected to survive longer than a few months.
In February an application for stay of proceedings was denied with the courts still intent on getting Ashby to face trial.