A 55-year-old Bothell man who was being held in jail for investigation of first-degree murder in the shooting of his wife was released on his own reconizance Friday afternoon.

He and his family had maintained his wife, who was terminally ill, had wanted to die and that it was a mercy killing.

The woman's husband, Donald McNeely, had appeared via video before a judge in a Snohomish County courtroom Thursday.

“These are tragic and unique circumstances,” public defender Donald Wackerman said, adding that McNeely is not a threat to the community and should be released from the Snohomish County Jail on his own recognizance.

“He has family -- his son and daughter are both here, on his behalf,” Wackerman said.

But a prosecutor requested that he be kept in jail because, she said, he planned the killing of his wife.

"What we do know, from the defendant's own statements, is that he sat for two hours with the firearm as his wife slept, and after two hours decided to end her life," Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Julie Walters said.

The man’s wife was shot dead Wednesday afternoon in their Bothell home, where they had lived for 25 years.

Police said McNeely called authorities after his wife was shot. Family members told authorities, according to court documents, that his wife had been diagnosed with brain cancer several years ago and had been in terrible pain. They told police that McNeely’s wife had asked him to shoot her several months ago, court documents indicated.

But the judge ordered McNeely held on $500,000 bail, noting that it was disclosed that McNeely had at least five weapons inside his home. The judge said Thursday that the only way she would even consider allowing his possible release would be if all those weapons were seized.

Another court hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Robb Miller, the executive director for Compassion & Choices of Washington, said, “This is a terrible tragedy; if the patient was dying, the husband probably felt desperate. He was probably suffering from depression related to this long illness."

Under Washington state’s Death with Dignity Act, terminally ill patients with six months or less to live and who are mentally competent have the right to request life-ending medication from their physicians to commit suicide.

“In this particular case, if it were, had the wife qualified for Death with Dignity and had medication, perhaps her husband would not have felt such desperation,” Miller said.

McNeely’s family would not speak to the media Thursday, so it’s not known if they looked into using the Death with Dignity Act.  Under the law, in order to get the life-ending drugs, a patient must clearly understand what they're asking the doctor to do, and two physicians must agree that he or she has less than six months to live. If a patient doesn't meet both of those standards, they can’t qualify.

Washington is one of three states, including Oregon and Montana, which allow physician-enabled suicide for the terminally ill. 

In 2009, 42 people in Washington state acquired the life-ending medication and used it; in 2010, 75 people did; in 2011, 121 people used it.