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An Irving man facing a life term for the fatal stabbing of his estranged wife last summer died Friday, the Erie County district attorney's office said.

Harry Hillyard, 55, was taken to the Erie County Medical Center Thursday and pronounced dead at about 10:30 a.m. Friday.

He died of complications caused by longtime high blood-pressure, diabetes and a thyroid problem, said Christopher J. Belling, a chief of the Homicide Bureau.

Hillyard, of Route 438, was convicted of second-degree murder Nov. 28 for the slaying of his wife, Donna, 41, on Aug. 27.

The twice-married Hillyard was subdued by patrons of the Touch of Country bar at 19 Buffalo St., Gowanda, after he stabbed his wife six times in the back, neck, chest and left arm as she was leaving with a male friend and other patrons as the bar was closing about 4 a.m.

Hillyard, who was held in the Erie County Holding Center, had been scheduled for sentencing Jan. 25 by County Judge Michael L. D'Amico and faced a mandatory prison term of 15 to 25 years to life.

Belling said that under state law, prosecutors are required to formally dismiss the murder charge when the defendant dies before sentencing, since the defendant did not have a chance to appeal the conviction. An appeal cannot be filed until after sentencing.

Bar patrons and employees testified that they hit the heavy-set Hillyard with bar stools and pool sticks in an unsuccessful attempt to get him away from the victim.

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