A Kentucky death row inmate's plea to die for the slayings of two children cleared its last mandatory hurdle Thursday, potentially setting the state on course for its first execution in nine years.

The Kentucky Supreme Court rejected a request by Marco Allen Chapman's court-appointed lawyers to reconsider his case, ending the automatic appeals required in all death penalty cases. However, further appeals are possible, defense attorneys say.

Chapman pleaded guilty in 2004 to murdering 7-year-old Chelbi Sharon and 6-year-old Cody Sharon and asked for the death sentence. He also pleaded guilty to attacking their mother, Carolyn Marksberry, and their older sister, Courtney Sharon.

Chapman has repeatedly said he wants to waive all appeals and told The Associated press in May that he's ready to die for his crimes.

"The only thing I could says is I'm sorry. Even though they shouldn't accept it, my heartfelt apologies for their loss and what I've done," Chapman said then. "I'm ready. I'm ready and I'm sorry. There's nothing else I can say."

Legal experts say the case is groundbreaking because of Chapman's decision to waive a jury trial and sentencing, then nearly beg to be executed. His attorneys have argued Chapman is trying to use the legal system to commit "suicide by court."

His attorneys contested a number of aspects of the plea agreement, including claiming that Chapman was too depressed to competently admit his guilt and ask for the death sentence. The justices turned away every argument.

The high court's decision comes nearly six years to the day after the 2002 attacks.

Linda Talley Smith, who prosecuted Chapman, said the ruling validates how prosecutors handled the case and moves the Marksberry family a little closer to "the end of a long and painful time for them."

"This doesn't make things better, for sure," Smith said. "It's just one more slow step in the process."

However, Dawn Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Advocacy, said the justices modified the opinion in Chapman's case, which may open the door for further appeals.

"The legal process will continue," Jenkins said.

The public defender's office has 10 days to ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider its decision. Then prosecutors would have 10 days to respond.

Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, did not have an immediate comment. Chapman did not immediately return a message delivered through the Department of Corrections.

Chapman, who police say was coming off a two-day crack cocaine binge, went to the Marksberry home in Warsaw, a town of 1,800 about 65 miles northeast of Louisville. He tied up Marksberry and began stabbing her, then attacked the children.

Kentucky has executed two people since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.