Forty-six-year-old Fernando Carias appeared in front of Judge Keith Gregory but there appeared to be a language barrier.
When Gregory asked if Carias spoke English, he mumbled a response and the judge called for a Spanish interpreter. However, the interpreter was unable to understand Carias either.
A courtroom deputy also told the judge Thursday that neither he nor the jail staff had been able to get Carias to respond.
"He's been unable to establish, I guess, any kind of communication with him at this point," said Gregory. "I am going to go ahead and inform him what he's been charged with. But I want to make the state aware that I am not sure, at this point, if he is able to at least understand me."
Wake sheriff's investigators said Carias shot his wife, Marison Rojas, to death at their home south of Garner Tuesday night while their teenage children were in the home. When he showed up to turn himself in, they say he held a gun to his head, which led to a six-hour stand-off Wednesday morning in North Raleigh.
It is unclear whether the children witnessed the killing.
Gregory denied bond for Carias and said an attorney will be appointed for him.